Whether it's Minneapolis or New York, today's cities need help bringing affordable housing to the working poor. Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton understands the importance and urgency of bringing affordable housing to the nation's cities, and she knows it has to be a team approach.

Her solution is to partner with the private sector, as well as the state and federal government, to create mixed-income housing with at least 20 percent of the units serving residents who earn 30 percent or less than the city median income.

Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton - Mayor of Minneapolis
Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton - Mayor of Minneapolis

"She's extremely committed to this housing issue," says Steve Cramer, executive director of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency. "She recognizes that the response to affordable housing is not just a municipal responsibility – it can't be."

So, why are developers interested in teaming up with the cities? "Because mayors and others all across the country are saying 'We invite your presence in our community,'" says Mayor Sayles Belton. "If you need help from the city in any way, we want to ask you to adopt certain standards and goals that will help us to achieve the goals we established for our city; and one of them is affordable housing."

While developers are agreeing to Minneapolis' terms, the process takes more than two partners. Some projects the city has helped put together have included six to nine different financing resources, she says.

But with so many organizations bringing funds to the table, it takes a long time to get deals done. "It takes a lot of work, a lot of cooperation and requires a shared vision," says the mayor. And the biggest part of that vision is moving away from strategies that consisted of grouping all the low-income housing units into one area of the city.

"A lot of people have come to believe that [concentrating low-income housing] is not a very effective way of housing people in the long run," explains Mayor Sayles Belton. "There's a lot of conversations that have to go on in a community regarding whether or not mixed-income housing units are going to be welcomed in a particular neighborhood."