Alan Arthur, who has led Minneapolis-based Aeon for more than three decades, is stepping down from his role as president and CEO of the affordable housing nonprofit. Aeon owns, manages, and develops affordable housing around the Twin Cities; it now has a portfolio of 5,660 housing units.
Arthur, who turns 70 in a matter of days, says it seemed like the right time to make the move.
“We’re strong financially and operationally. We have great leadership internally,” Arthur told Twin Cities Business on Friday afternoon.
Aeon began in 1986 as the Central Community Housing Trust. Arthur said that it was started by housing advocates and four downtown churches to protest the ongoing demolition of apartments in downtown Minneapolis. Arthur took the helm in 1988.
“I was the second choice of the board to lead the organization,” recalled Arthur with a laugh.
He’s been leading it ever since. He will continue to do so while working on transition planning until the board taps a successor.
How does a guy with a political science degree end up running a large housing owner, developer, and manager? Arthur said that he’s been working in construction and real estate since he was 19 years old.
“We are deeply grateful to Alan for his leadership and steadfast commitment to Aeon and its mission,” said Tami Diehm, president of Winthrop & Weinstine, who served as Aeon board chair during fiscal 2021, in a statement. “He’s made a tremendous difference for our community, most of all for the tens of thousands of people that have called Aeon their home during his tenure.”
Although Aeon started in core of Minneapolis, the group has long since branched out to the suburbs.
In Bloomington, Aeon is currently under construction on the 172-unit Blooming Meadows North, an addition to an existing complex. In Edina, Aeon is under construction on The Sound on 76th which will offer 70 affordable units. The name of the Edina project echoes the site’s history as the onetime home of Flyte Time Studios, the former base of operations for music producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
In addition to building its own projects, Aeon often purchases existing apartment buildings to maintain affordable rents for residents. Nearly all affordable housing development is financed with the help of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Under federal guidelines, projects using LIHTC must maintain affordability for 15 years. After that, owners can convert buildings into market-rate apartments.
The most recent such deal was Aeon’s December acquisition of the 74-unit Cobblestone Court Apartments in Maplewood.
The equity to make that acquisition came from a partnership with St. Paul-based Sunrise Banks that had been announced in January 2020. Sunrise and three local foundations combined forces to create a community development corporation to work with Aeon. Since 2017, Aeon has acquired more than 3,000 units in older apartment buildings to maintain affordability.
In the beginning, Aeon was a shoestring operation. The financial information available on its website indicates that Aeon had revenue of $70 million for its latest fiscal year.
Arthur’s passion for working to build and sustain affordable housing is clear.
“I’m the luckiest man in the world, seriously,” said Arthur of the job he’s had for 33 years.
Aeon’s board of directors has tapped Minneapolis-based Cincinnatus to lead the search for the organization’s next leader.
Arthur is known outside the Twin Cities as an expert in his field and has led training sessions nationally covering affordable housing development, financing, and organizational governance. Arthur currently serves on the board of the National Housing Partnership Network.
Arthur has earned many honors over the years, including a spot on the TCB100 list.
In a 2018 Twin Cities Business story about the 2040 Plan in the city of Minneapolis, Arthur outlined why the need for affordable housing is so large.
“The situation is so dire that we basically need to be adding all kinds of housing, and half of it needs to be affordable,” said Arthur at the time. “I use those numbers because half of the jobs we have and half of the jobs we’re creating are jobs that pay annual incomes that qualify people for affordable housing. We can’t sustain an economy and a social community that’s functional unless we have places for people to live that they can afford.”