For the fifth consecutive year, the Minnesota Housing Partnership is among a small, select groups of organizations nationwide awarded a grant through the federal Rural Capacity Building (RCB) program. The $816,455 grant for 2016 adds to millions of dollars invested in MHP to build the capacity of rural leaders to solve housing and community development issues in their communities.
The RCB award will fund MHP’s Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, which gives leaders the tools and knowledge they need to identify and address regional development needs through strategic collaboration. According to MHP Community Development Director Rosemary Fagrelius, SRC is all about empowering rural communities to address development challenges head on. SRC positions key local entities as the go-to organizations for housing and development needs in their region.
"What excites me most about the Strengthening Rural Communities program is the fact that I’ve seen how, for many rural communities, this funding provides the opportunity to build their own internal capacity," Fagrelius said. "This program empowers communities to address the challenges they face by giving them the tools and skills they need to collaborate with developers and take a regional approach to community development."
During its December meeting, the board of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) dedicated most of its discussion to tax exempt financing, while also providing updates on the federal tax credit program, the state's allocation from the National Housing Trust Fund, the Agency's outreach and feedback regarding changes to the 4 percent tax credit and marketing of the Agency's Homeownership Lending Program.
National Housing Trust Fund
Commissioner Mary Tingerthal opened the meeting reporting that HUD had given final approval for the Agency’s plan to use its allocation from the National Housing Trust Fund. In the first year of their availability, these funds are being awarded to the Southwest MHP Solace Apartments development in Saint Peter. (Read our blog about the Solace project here.)
MHP is excited to ring in the New Year with three new board members: Jacqueline Ann Dionne from the Minnesota Department of Health, Tony Schertler of the Dakota County Community Development Agency, and Jim Wabindato from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. “MHP is fortunate to be led by many of the state’s top leaders in affordable housing and community development,” said Chip Halbach, MHP's Executive Director. “Tony, Jim, and Jackie are very accomplished individuals and will bring a wealth of experience to the board.”
As the organization continues to expand its work with Native communities in Minnesota and beyond, the perspectives and insights of Wabindato and Dionne will be critical.
“MHP is working in more and more Native communities, and having board members who can help guide and support the work we do is essential,” said Rosemary Fagrelius, MHP's Deputy Director and Community Development Director. “We will be looking to them for guidance as we deliver technical assistance to American Indian communities through programs like the Native Communities Development Institute. It is a huge asset to have Native voices on our board.”
The impetus for the Solace Apartments came from an unlikely champion.
Three years ago, the Honorable Allison Krehbiel raised the alarm. The Judge for the Fifth Judicial District Court in Nicollet County (pictured right) was watching rehabilitated residents exit the criminal justice system and enter a housing market that made it nearly impossible for them to find a home.
With virtually no vacancy in the primary cities of St. Peter and Mankato, people with criminal backgrounds simply couldn’t compete. Instead, they ended up couch surfing or living in their vehicles, creating unstable lifestyles for their families and, all too often, paving a direct path to recidivism.
“Judge Krehbiel asked me what I intended to do about this problem,” Goodemann recalls with a laugh. “That’s how it started.”
Three years later, that call to action has resulted in Solace Apartments, 30 units of affordable housing with supportive services for people at high risk of homelessness who have mental health and/or substance abuse challenges. While the vision is far from complete, last month the ground-breaking project in St. Peter received $6.7 million in funding from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Adding shine to its award, the project secured the state’s first allocation from the National Housing Trust Fund — and is being heralded as a national model already.