More than 30 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly took an important step in promoting the idea that everyone deserves a decent place to live by declaring the first Monday in October to be World Habitat Day.

On October 4, 2021 Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota hosted a virtual event on the statewide impact of homeownership in partnership with some of Minnesota’s and the nation’s leaders in this work: Stephanie Hoff, Abdirahin Hussen, Ali Joens, Mayor Emily Larson, and Marisa Sauceda. This panel conversation, moderated by Emma Kasiga, is informative and engaging for anyone wishing to learn more about the diverse affordable housing needs in Minnesota, with the particular angle of ownership as the cornerstone to economic and household stability.

World Habitat Day 2021 may have already happened, but here are 5 things you can do now!

1) Read about our four amazing panelists below

2) Watch the recording of the 2021 panel

3) Read the recap of the 2021 panel 

4) Invite your friends, family, and legislator to watch the panel

5) Watch last years 2020 panel on Equity in Homeownership

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Meet the Panelists

Stephanie Hoff

Director of Communications at Otter Tail Power Company

Meet Stephanie Hoff. She joined Otter Tail Power Company in 2006 as Communications Specialist. She was named Senior Communications Specialist in 2012; Manager, Information Technology Planning and Projects in 2013; Manager, Public Relations in 2013; and Director, Communications in 2018.

A native of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, the headquarters community for Otter Tail Power Company, Hoff earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris in communications with an emphasis in media. She also is a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Outside of work, Hoff professionally coaches young women to know, love, and live their true selves. She is a member of CrossFit Fergus Falls where she passionately builds her physical, mental, and motional strength. Hoff enjoys reading, writing, and connecting with others.

Abdirahin Hussen

Regional Manager – Central Minnesota at the African Development Center (ADC)

Meet Abdirahin Hussen. With an education in Accounting from Ridgewater College in Willmar, MN and Business Administration from India’s Mysore University, Abdi’s experiences include maintaining quotas and budgets as well as recruiting and training personnel. 

Abdi’s background also includes working as a Legal Assistant and Interpreter within the community. He also brings to ADC his expertise in client intake, workflow evaluation and process management. 

As a Certified Housing Counselor and Educator, Abdi will provide ADC clients in the Willmar and surrounding area with support in Financial Literacy, Homeownership Preparedness and Small Business Development.

Ali Joens

Director of Homeownership Services at Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP)

Meet Ali Joens. SWMHP is a housing agency serving 36 counties in rural Minnesota. Ali has been with the agency since 2001 and leads the agency through the Sustainable Business Initiative by evaluating efficiencies, fee for service models and performance measures and is a member of the NeighborWorks Homeownership Advisory Committee for the Midwest Region. 

Ali is responsible for the oversight of the SWMHP’s Homeownership Center which provides homebuyer education, home maintenance courses, mortgage counseling, foreclosure counseling, financial coaching, single family development, and rehabilitation lending.  In addition to the Homeownership Center, Ali also administers the Partnership Community Land Trust, USDA Rural Development 502 Direct Packaging, the organization’s Community Building and Engagement Program, and divisional grant reporting. 

Ali has Bachelor of Science in Business Management and currently holds a Minnesota Realtors license and certification in the following areas: USDA 502 Packaging, Mortgage Counseling, Homebuyer Education, Foreclosure Counseling, Post Purchase Education, Financial Capabilities, Mortgage Lending and Loan Portfolio Management through NeighborWorks and is a HUD-Certified Housing Counselor. 

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Emily Larson

Mayor of the City of Duluth 

Meet Emily Larson. She was elected Mayor of Duluth in November 2015 and was inaugurated on January 4th, 2016. Prior to becoming Mayor, Emily was President of the Duluth City Council, served as a commissioner on the Duluth Economic Development Authority and was the Council Conduit to Parks and Libraries.

Currently, Mayor Larson serves as a member of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, and sits on the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund Board.  As Mayor, her priorities include sustainable energy, increasing and improving our housing stock, addressing the opioid epidemic, developing a stable and reliable long-term streets funding plan, and continuing to grow Duluth’s robust and unique economy.

Emily earned an undergraduate degree from the College of St. Scholastica, A master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth and is a graduate of Intermedia Arts Creative Community Leadership Institute.

Marisa Sauceda

Executive Director at Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity 

Meet Marisa Sauceda. She has been working as the Executive Director of the Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity for two years which serves North Dakota and Minnesota. She’s passionate about housing as a pathway to wealth and financial security and believes housing is essential for the success of a family and a community’s success. 

Marisa received my undergraduate degree in Communication from the University of North Dakota and her Master’s in Community Development from North Dakota State University. She’s currently attending UND’s School of Law for a Juris Doctorate with an emphasis in Property Law and plans to continue her work with housing after graduating in 2024.  

Emma Kasiga, Moderator

Senior Loan Officer at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

Habitat Minnesota Board Member

Meet Emma Kasiga. She works to assist the underserved communities of Minnesota to access capital for small businesses as well as incentivize manufacturers to come/stay in Minnesota. Emma is also a Community Financial Ambassador; she goes to various communities to provide financial education to the community at large.

Emma has her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management from Waldorf College and a Masters of Arts degree in Business Administration from the University of Saint Thomas where she concentrated on International Business and Finance. 

Emma directed an overseas mission program for a number of years before she moved into the banking and finance world as a personal, and then a business banker. She also spent a few years in the financial advising industry. She transitioned to the economic development world where she used her nonprofit skills, as well as her banking and finance skills to serve the African immigrant communities of Minnesota.