Two new homes for heroes

Why build one home for homeless veterans when you can build two? The BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation is set to build two brand-new homes for homeless veterans this year in partnership with Lennar and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV).

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The first home will be built on a lot in North St. Paul across the street from the Veterans Memorial Park. The home in North St. Paul will be 2,700 square feet and will have three bedrooms to house homeless veteran families as they transition to more permanent housing.

“We knew after successfully completing one home for heroes each year for the past two years that we wanted to ramp it up in 2019,” said Donnie Brown, BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation manager. “We’re excited that we were able to find two lots to make the two homes work this year.”

The second home will be located in Bloomington. It will be a 3,500-square-foot rambler with four bedrooms and will house four male veterans.

“If we don’t have a home like this for these veterans they are staying in a shelter or staying with a bad partner,” said Neal Loidolt, president and CEO of MACV. “These homes make a major difference for our organization and are truly helping us in our effort to end veteran homelessness.”

Both North St. Paul and Bloomington have worked with the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation to help these projects come together.

“We’re excited that by the end of the year there will be an additional seven bedrooms to bring veterans off the street or out of the shelter and into these two new homes,” said Brown.

Construction is set to begin on the North St. Paul home this June and on the Bloomington home by the end of July.

University of St. Thomas research shows keys to attracting youth to construction

The key motivators for youth attracted to careers in construction are good pay, diversity of work, availability of work and creating the tangible. These findings come from a newly released University of St. Thomas Applied Business Research report conducted for Housing First Minnesota.

“What this research demonstrates clearly is that efforts like Project Build Minnesota are on the right track and must continue,” said Katie Elfstrom, communications manager for Housing First Minnesota and the research supervisor.

One key finding of the report is that school counselors can be strong advocates. They are more open to careers in construction than ever before and they perceive that society is broadly changing in accepting the value of skilled labor. They identify that there is still a strong stigma about not getting a four-year degree, particularly for parents, but that is slowly changing.


While Project Build Minnesota has been working to change this stigma and educate counselors by exhibiting at the Minnesota School Counselors Association for several years, counselors still are underinformed about our industry’s career ladder.

Survey Findings of High School Counselors

• 95% of counselors are unsure of the education requirements for a career in construction

• 90% are unsure about construction career salaries

• 65% of school counselors are unsure of the various job options available

• Counselors report that 18% of their students reach out to them about construction, a surprisingly high number

The researchers recommend that efforts like Project Build Minnesota continue to reach out to counselors and provide them information (salary, jobs, pathways). Project Build Minnesota Executive Director Dennis Medo reports that they have already put together a kit that is being distributed to school counselors.

The report also highlighted some unique characteristics of Generation Z, which now makes up one-third of the U.S. population. In particular, this generation seeks to make a difference in the world. They are highly capable of self-direction and non-traditional training. They want their careers to have meaning and to do work that will help make the world a better place, a trait that is valued more than compensation. Given these desires, a residential construction career that builds safe, durable homes for families in communities they love should be a very attractive story.

However, there are fears young people have about the industry. These include:

• The physicality of the job

• The external work environment (tough work outside)

• The coworker environment (tough crowd to work with)

The research revealed that students are unaware of the opportunity for career advancement and entrepreneurship in the construction industry with 60% of students reporting they are not aware of the potential career paths in construction.

To address these concerns, the researchers recommend attending career fairs and providing accurate local information. Project Build Minnesota has developed its own speakers bureau that reaches students in the classroom.

In another effort to reach students, Project Build Minnesota and Housing First Minnesota have been working diligently to change Minnesota statutes to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to be on the job site under appropriate supervision. Limited progress was made on the issue this past legislative session and work will continue in subsequent sessions. Department of Labor & Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink told Housing First Minnesota she would be bringing together a work group to study the opportunity.

Hearts in Housing Gala breaks records

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Guests at the 2019 Hearts in Housing Gala, held at the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America on April 27, donned masquerade-inspired style while raising funds to help support the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation.

The evening of camaraderie and generosity included a silent auction, live auction and fund-a-need. Over 400 builders, remodelers, trade partners and supporters raised a record-breaking $225,000 to support the nonprofit’s mission of providing safe, durable, affordable housing for Minnesota’s homeless, veterans and others in need.

“It was a great night,” said Jim Myers, attendee and owner of Twin Cities Closet Co. “I think it’s good anytime we can help our fellow Minnesotans, especially veterans.”


2018 Award Recipients and Build Partners Honored Two Hearts in Housing awards were given to individuals who went above and beyond in their support of the Foundation. This year’s Hearts in Housing award recipients were:

• Mac McGaffey of Homes by Tradition, LLC

• Bob Bennett

Five build partners were recognized for their significant contributions to projects in 2018. These companies stepped forward to serve as the general contractor on building projects:

• Crystal Kitchen Center, Inc.

• Homes by Tradition, LLC

• Lennar

• Soderberg Apartment Specialists

• The Kingdom Builders

Builders and remodelers connect with buyers through Spring Parade of Homes

Local home tours give builders and remodelers an opportunity to showcase their latest work


The Parade of Homes Twin Cities wrapped up its spring event this March with builders and remodelers showcasing 472 new homes and 59 remodeled homes to the public. The majority of participating builders and remodelers reported good or excellent success from the tour, with local homebuilder Robert Thomas Homes, Inc. reporting a record month of sales during the tour.

“We achieved 40 noncontingent sales during the month of March, which is an all-time record for Robert Thomas Homes,” said Carole Griffith, vice president of sales and marketing for the builder. “The amount of traffic this event delivers to our communities during these two months outperforms the traffic we receive during the remaining 10 months of the year!”

Research on model homes over the past decade shows an increase in the number of models in the market during the first quarter that likely correlates with the spring Parade of Homes, according to Danielle Leach, Midwest regional director and senior consultant at Metrostudy.


“Builders tend to open additional models for the Parade of Homes in order to boost traffic to their product offering,” Leach explained.

For local builders, home tours like the Parade of Homes are an opportunity to showcase new homes and neighborhoods available across the region. Homes on the spring tour ranged in style and in price, from the $200,000s to multimillion-dollar residences.

“We make every effort to maximize this opportunity to get face-to-face with 1,000s of new home prospects and are very thoughtful in the homes we enter and how they are presented,” added Griffith.

The Remodelers Showcase runs the final weekend of the Parade of Homes. This tour gives remodelers a chance to connect with new clients in the metro area and allows families to learn how remodeling can help them remain in their community when their homes no longer fit their needs.

Building up women in new construction

Building up women in new construction

Women have long been in the minority when it comes to working in construction. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women only make up 2.6% of construction occupations, while they make up 47% of the entire workforce. As the construction industry struggles with an already dire labor shortage, how do we recruit more women to work in new construction? One of the groups hoping to make a difference is Women in New Construction (WINC). WINC’s goal is to support the advancement of women in the construction industry.

WINC holds monthly events to encourage strong mutual support networks among members and offer mentoring opportunities for women to share strengths, talents and experience. Masha Romer, one of WINC’s founders, shared more on the growth of the group, how they are building up women in the construction industry and why it’s important that we steer women toward construction careers.

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Townhomes construction picks up across the country

According to Meyers Research, consumers overwhelmingly prefer single-family detached homes to the attached product or townhome, but buyers are increasingly open to denser communities to help hit a lower price or a certain location. This sentiment could be why attached new home communities increased by 16% on average nationwide from 2016 to 2019.

The share of attached new home projects varies drastically by region, with some of the more expensive regions to build in having the largest share. The Northeast and Southern California have the highest share of attached product while Texas has the lowest share.


While the share of attached new homes in the Twin Cities has remained stagnant for the past few years, the demand is high. According to Meyers Research, the Twin Cities is part of a small group of major metros where nearly 50% percent of the best-selling new communities are attached homes. The other metros where this is occurring are Seattle, Miami, Salt Lake City and Washington, DC.

Wage growth finally gains some momentum

Wage growth finally gains some momentum

The lack of wage growth throughout this economic expansion has puzzled many experts. The U.S. economy hit full employment in March 2017 and the economy has seen the longest job growth stretch on record. It turns out it took a year and a half for a shift to happen.

Payroll processor ADP reported wage growth hit 3.8% in April after nearly a decade of minimal growth. Individuals that switched jobs saw a 5.6% increase in their wage, an increase 1.5% higher than the last year.

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Green Path launches Designated Green Path Builder Program

Builders across Minnesota who commit to having at least 75% of their homes tested by third-party RESNET raters and attend a half-day Green Path professional development workshop are now eligible for recognition as Designated Green Path Builders. Under this newly launched program, builders who meet the criteria can market themselves as Designated Green Path Builders, which includes digital and print badging, recognition on the Minnesota’s Green Path website and recognition in the Parade of Homes should they have a home in the tour.

“This is an important step in recognizing builders who commit to energy effi ciency and third-party validation,” said Carole Griffith, vice president of sales and marketing at Robert Thomas Homes and Green Path Committee chair for Housing First Minnesota, which presents the Green Path program.

“There is strong interest. We launched just last month and already have more than 10 participating builders. We think we’ll reach 50 participating builders as the program gains awareness.”

Minnesota’s Green Path has been receiving substantial interest in the past several months. Tom Gavaras, Green Path program manager, presented at the recent RESNET conference along with Ross Anderson of The Energy Network (TEN). The program has now provided Home Performance Reports to more than 18,000 newly built homes in Minnesota and proudly reflects an average HERS index of 51.

The success of the program has been important to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry with regard to the energy code.

Remodeling activity starts the year at a slower pace

The low supply of homes for sale has had many homeowners choosing to stay in place and remodel instead of moving. That could be changing. According to the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), the Remodeling Market Index (RMI) fell three points to 54 in the fi rst quarter of 2019. Even with the drop the index is still over the break-even score of 50 which means remodelers are still reporting that activity that is above average. NAHB’s RMI has been above 50 since the second quarter of 2013.


NAHB is also reporting a decrease in remodeling spending, which fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $173 billion in March, down by 3.1% over February estimate, and was 14.1% lower than a year ago.

Minnesota remodelers have seen some of the same trends. Kelly Davert of the Plymouth-based kitchen and bath showroom Mingle reported that while they are seeing an increase in the number of projects, they are also seeing more customers cut down on their spending.

“We are busy and we are still seeing whole neighborhoods that are remodeling all at the same time,” said Davert. “People are defi nitely more concerned about costs and budget than they were just a year ago.” NAHB predicts the remodeling market will continue to grow in 2019, but at a more modest pace than previously. According to the Census Bureau, 30% of remodeling activity was major additions and alterations, 40% minor additions and alterations, and 30% maintenance and repair.

Home prices hit a new record in the Twin Cities

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The latest numbers from the Minneapolis Association of REALTORS® (MAR) show that the median home sales price rose in the Twin Cities 5.2% to $281,000, a record high for any month. Inventory fell by 1.2% from April 2018 and month’s supply was flat.

Changes in sales activity also varied by market segment. Single-family sales declined 7.1%, condo sales increased 9.1% and townhome sales declined 9.1%.

According to MAR, well-priced, turnkey properties continue to be highly sought-after, and the market is tightest at the entry-level prices, where multiple offers and homes selling for over list price are commonplace. The move-up and upper-bracket segments are less competitive and better supplied.

According to the Minnesota REALTORS®, the median sales price for the state increased by 4.6% to $251,000 and total inventory declined by 3.2% from April 2018.

Housing market report

Slow spring for single-family housing

Despite falling mortgage rates and solid wage growth, new home construction had a lackluster spring. Year-to-date through April single-family permits across the state were down 2% compared to 2018. Single-family permits in the Twin Cities were down 8.5% compared to this time last year. Meanwhile, inventory of existing homes for sale continues to fall, driving home prices to new all-time highs. According to the Minneapolis Area REALTORS®, the median sales price in the Twin Cities increased by 5.2% to $281,000 this April. It is clear the demand for new homes in the market is there, but the high cost of housing is keeping many waiting on the sidelines.

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Bill to remove race restrictions on housing signed into law

Gov. Tim Walz signed Chapter 45, a bill allowing homeowners to remove racial covenants on residential housing.

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The bill passed the Minnesota Senate 63-1 and the House 128-0. The bill’s authors were Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) and Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis).

“Minnesota’s deep segregation is not by accident. Racial covenants existed to stop African Americans and people of color from owning property in certain areas, and we see the ramifi cations of these covenants to this day. This bill will help homeowners reject racial covenants and is one step in working to address disparities in Minnesota,” said Hayden.

The Twin Cities is among the leading regions in the country when it comes to racial gaps in homeownership. While the level of white homeownership is 12 points above the national rate at 76%, homeownership among African Americans is 23% and people of color broadly 40% – both well below the national average.

The newly created Legislative Committee on Housing Affordability is charged with studying and reviewing policies to reduce the homeownership equity gap.