Nestled in the southwestern corner of Minnesota, Lincoln County is home to just under 6,000 residents. In this rural part of the state, it has often been difficult for households to find basic information about where to rent, how to get help repairing or weatherizing homes, or housing options for seniors. Through participation as a team in MHP's Housing Institute program, Lincoln County has seen a lot of change. County participants have collaborated in innovative new ways to help people find much-needed housing information - and more - in Lincoln County.
In 2009, MHP and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) launched the Housing Institute to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of housing and economic development authorities and other partners. Lincoln County was one of three teams selected to participate in the inaugural 2010-11 program, due to their willingness to collaborate across the boundaries of cities, housing and economic development authorities, and partner organizations. The 18-month program allowed the team to hone new ideas, work in a more integrated way, and gain new skills to put their good ideas into action.
As a result, the team adopted a new comprehensive website, called "At Home in Lincoln County," as a one-stop shop for county-wide housing information. Now individuals seeking rental housing, selling a home, or trying to locate housing repair & assistance programs can easily obtain the resources they need. For realtors and apartment managers, the website allows them to advertise their services, a sometimes difficult and expensive task in a rural area.
The webpage has also decreased the amount of time housing authority and city staff spend directing individuals to organizations and services, allowing for increased productivity in other areas of their work. This is especially important, given dwindling resources to keep governments running smoothly in rural places like Lincoln County.
But the website launch was not the only success for the Lincoln County team. The collaborative process of the Housing Institute enabled understanding of the importance of housing work to blossom among other stakeholders in Lincoln County. Said Vince Robinson, owner of Development Services Inc., and Lincoln County Housing Institute team member:
"We came to understand more about low-to-moderate income housing needs and how to talk about them in Lincoln County. Our stakeholders understand better now that low-to-moderate income guidelines don't mean that an individual is a low or moderate person. Having the opportunity to report on what we learned at the Housing Institute created a platform for valuable discussion back home."
Collaboration on this project has also prompted the team to strategize methods to continue working together closely to make sure that the housing needs of this rural county can be met as best as possible going forward.
Lincoln County Housing Institute Team: Dan Tolsma, Paul Olson, Vince Robinson, Heather Ulrich-Glynn.
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