Housing Institute teams gather to “date” developers and court opportunity

Teams from MHP’s Greater MN regional community development training program, the Housing Institute, met early this month in Baxter, MN for their third gathering since their kick-off meeting last January. The meeting gave teams the chance to update each other on their projects’ progress, discuss federal policy with staff from Minnesota congressional offices, and “speed date” with local developers interested in helping projects move forward.

“Meeting with potential developers was definitely a highlight of the meeting. It helped educate team members about what a developer might be looking for if they were interested in our project.” – Debra Shaff, Executive Director of the Cloquet/Carlton HRA

With the teams now half of the way through the Institute training, the convening addressed more specific aspects of project development—how to leverage state resources like tax credits and other local sources, how to court and choose the right developer, and how to generate creative solutions to common problems.

Each color corresponds to a Housing Institute team and the cities/counties they represent.

The four current teams from Brainerd, Cloquet, East Central, and West Central have projects that represent a diverse range of development needs. Projects range from senior, workforce, and supportive housing development, downtown rehab, to the creation of a web-based housing resource directory.

After unexpected costs arose, the Grand Rapids team had to get creative with financing certain aspects of the supportive housing project. One of the solutions they came up with was to purchase the project’s kitchen cabinetry and other furnishings from MINNCOR, a company that builds high-quality, low-cost furniture while providing employment for people in prison. Contracting with MINNCOR has allowed the team to keep costs within range while maintaining quality.

One of the highlights of the gathering was hearing from a team of Institute alumni from Grand Rapids who discussed the progress of their supportive housing project, Beacon Hill. Construction of the project began this spring. Members of the team reflected on their experience in the Institute and shared some of the key things they’ve learned throughout the development process.

“The synposis provided by Grand Rapids was invaluable – the commitment, the dedication and trust they had in one another was incredible. Their efforts and energy will benefit their community for years.” – Debra Shaff

Teams will continue to meet individually over the coming months and will gather for the final, large-group convening in October to discuss project funding and financing in more depth.

A special thanks to the event speakers:

Emily Northey, Preservation Alliance
Skip Duchesneau, DW Jones Management Inc.
Jamie Thelen, Sand Companies, Inc. 
Tom Whiteside, Field Representative for Congressman Nolan. See a photo and brief caption of the event on Nolan’s blog.

The Housing Institute is a program of MHP and Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. The Institute is designed to foster regional collaboration and build the capacity of rural communities to meet local housing and community development needs. Read more about the Housing Institute here.