MHP awarded $800,000 HUD grant to support rural communities

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.”

Over the past five years, MHP has utilized RCB funding to provide capacity building assistance in rural and tribal communities in eight states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington and Wisconsin. Through MHP’s SRC program, for which RCB funding provides support, MHP has provided technical assistance to 139 employees at 57 organizations and supported the placement of 140 housing units into the development process.

The results are breaking new ground for rural communities. For instance, in August the Northwoods Niijii Tribal Communities in Wisconsin — an SRC participant supported by MHP’s 2012 RCB award — started construction on Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl Living Arts and Culture Center — a gathering place to share and sustain Ojibwe artistry and culture. Emerson Coy, Vice President and Treasurer of the Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl and Director of Planning for the Lac du Flambeau Tribe, says the new Indian Bowl will be “like a cornerstone” for the Lac du Flambeau community. Coy emphasizes that this project will benefit not only the local community, but everyone who visits it.

Groundbreaking for the Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl Living Arts and Culture Center (via Facebook)

“We all have something to learn from each other, and it’s not just entertainment,” Coy says. “It’s an interactive activity when you come to a powwow and when you participate in the arts. There is so much to learn. I think people can walk away being a little more grounded in their life and learn from the experience. They can learn about balance. They can learn about nature. They can learn about culture. And they can learn about themselves.”

With the support of the 2016 RCB award, MHP will work with the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) to build their capacity as a rural housing development organization in Aroostook and Washington Counties. These counties face significant challenges: a steadily declining population, aging housing stock and a median household income significantly lower than the national median. MHP will assist NMDC in addressing these challenges through partnership building, planning for economic development projects and by helping NMDC tap into funding that supports the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing in the region.

In addition to supporting NMDC, MHP will utilize RCB resources to provide assistance to other eligible organizations that apply to participate in SRC. Ultimately, MHP will utilize the 2016 RCB award to continue to provide technical and financial assistance that:

  • Bolsters communities’ affordable housing development and rehab capacity to ensure housing access for communities’ lowest-income residents.
  • Expands communities’ capacity to access funding in the early stages of their development projects.
  • Grows communities’ capacity to deliver supportive services and develop supportive housing — especially for growing senior populations.
  • Develops and advances communities’ approach to sustainable economic and community development, emphasizing a comprehensive approach that includes transportation, land use, and job training.

The philanthropic investments of MHP partners such as Wells Fargo, among others, were crucial to MHP’s meeting the leverage requirement for this year’s RCB award. “Wells Fargo has a long, proud history of investing in local communities and we are pleased to partner with MHP to revitalize homes in rural communities around the country,” said Wells Fargo Minnesota Community Development Manager David Wiese.

MHP is one of just six entities receiving a portion of the $5 million pool made available by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. Other recipients include Rural Community Assistance Corp., National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, Housing Assistance Council, Collaborative Solutions, Inc. and Economic Consultants for Housing Opportunities, Inc.