Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Thursday announced he has hired Andrea Inouye as his point person on affordable housing.

Inouye, a Minnesota native, lives in Chicago and works as the senior vice president of real estate development for affordable-housing nonprofit Full Circle Communities. She was named one of Affordable Housing Finance magazine’s Young Leaders in 2017.

“I … have been following what’s been happening in Minneapolis around affordable housing from afar and am really excited about the energy and passion that the mayor and the City Council are bringing to this issue,” she said Thursday.

The hiring of Inouye as the city’s director of strategic partnerships is the latest in a series of steps the mayor and council have taken this year to counter the dwindling stock of low-cost housing. Frey allocated $40 million in his proposed budget to expand affordable housing, and the City Council is moving forward with a plan that would require apartment developers to include units with lower rents.

Inouye will confront what officials have described as a housing crisis, where finding a place to live is increasingly difficult for low-income families. In the past two decades, Minneapolis has lost about 15,000 units of housing considered affordable for those making half the median income, according to the city.

Frey got permission from the City Council last spring to expand his staff with the new position. Inouye will be paid an annual salary of $142,000, according to the mayor’s office. She will be tasked with building a coalition of housing advocates, business leaders, nonprofit groups and other governments, including the office of Gov.-elect Tim Walz, to move forward on the city’s affordable-housing goals.

“It is critical that we have support of partners in the private sector, nonprofits and other governmental jurisdictions,” Frey said in an interview Thursday. “Her experience makes her the ideal candidate to spearhead that work.”

The city initially considered a handful of candidates for the job but decided to expand the listing nationwide. More than 100 people were interested, including Inouye, who applied in October.

“We clicked immediately,” Frey said. “She’s smart, passionate and exceedingly clear in the direction that she wants to take both the position as well as the work that can be done on affordable housing.”

Developed an early interest

Inouye, 37, was born and raised in St. Paul and studied nearby at Bethel University. She interned at the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing and the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development before she attended graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned a masters of urban planning and policy.

Before joining Full Circle Communities, she worked for the Illinois Housing Council and Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., where she helped build affordable housing in the city’s northwest side.

Inouye said she became interested in affordable housing while in college, when she tutored a child whose family was constantly moving because they couldn’t find stable housing. The child dreamed of going to Harvard University, but the moves made it hard to focus on her education.

Over time, Inouye saw that the inability to have secure housing harmed people’s ability to keep jobs and eat healthy meals.

“It’s really hard to address any of the other things that can make your life better if you don’t have a stable, affordable, quality place to live,” she said.

Inouye will start her new job Jan. 7.