Humphrey School News—November 20, 2017

Affordable Housing Advocates Celebrate Legacy of Richard Brustad at Inaugural Lecture

Housing equity and access for all Minnesotans was Brustad's lifelong passion


Members of Richard Brustad's family along with lecturer Beth Shinn
Members of Richard Brustad's family, along with Professor Beth Shinn, far right.

In a fitting tribute to the late Richard Brustad, a longtime champion for affordable and equitable housing in Minnesota, some 150 people attended the first Richard A. Brustad Memorial Lecture November 16 at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Friends, family members, and longtime colleagues of Brustad heard a presentation by Vanderbilt University researcher Beth Shinn on the effectiveness of various programs designed to help families experiencing homelessness find permanent housing. The discussion around the topic of affordable housing, which was Brustad’s lifelong passion, inspired audience members.

Brustad, who died in January at age 75, was an urban planner and real estate developer who “led the creation of affordable housing in cities, suburbs, and outstate regions of Minnesota during his 53-year career,” said Humphrey School Associate Dean Carissa Slotterback during her opening remarks. “This new annual lecture will continue his legacy by serving as a forum for discussing the most important housing issues facing the Twin Cities region.”

Professor Beth Shinn of Vanderbilt University

Shinn presented the findings of her recently completed Family Options Study, which followed 2,300 families experiencing homelessness in 12 cities, including Minneapolis, for three years. The families were assigned to one of four types of housing assistance programs, to determine which approaches were most effective at helping them find permanent housing.

The results showed the most direct solution—providing families with long-term subsidies so they could afford to pay their rent each month—was the most successful, reducing the rate of homelessness by half over three years.

Other solutions such as rapid re-housing and transitional housing programs, which provided more services along with rental assistance, were not as successful in reducing the rate of homelessness. They also weren’t as effective in reducing related issues like substance abuse, food insecurity, or family separations, said Shinn.  

“We have a clear winner for how to aid homeless families, and that is to help them pay for housing. Homelessness is primarily a family income problem,” said Shinn. “The theory behind transitional housing—that families need support for other issues to find and keep stable housing—there’s not much evidence for that. We need to focus on getting people into housing, rather than ‘repairing’ them.”

Several of Richard Brustad’s family members attended the lecture, and said the evening was a meaningful and appropriate tribute to his legacy.

A portrait of Richard Brustad“Our family appreciates the commitment to continue the work for affordable housing that Dad so enjoyed,” said his son James. “That’s what struck me tonight about the lecture. Dad would just love that this conversation is taking place.”

Richard Brustad (pictured at left) served many organizations and agencies during his career, including the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency, the Minneapolis Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities, and Nationwide Housing Corporation.

Brustad and two business partners—Linda Donaldson and Peggy Lucas—founded Brighton Development Corporation in 1981 and spearheaded major urban redevelopment projects in Minneapolis, including the Mill City Museum, North Star Woolen Mills, and Lourdes Square, all located along the Mississippi River.

Donaldson and Lucas, along with the Community Housing Development Corporation, earlier this year established two funds in Brustad’s honor: one to support the lecture series, and the second to provide fellowships to support Humphrey School students interested in affordable housing work.

Donors have contributed more than $150,000 so far. For information on how to contribute to either the fellowship fund or the lecture fund, contact Humphrey School Director of Development Gwendolyn Freed, at 612-625-9588.

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