20 Years, 20 Great Ideas

20 Years | 20 Great Ideas is a testament to Minnesota's extraordinarily collaborative housing environment.

We invite you to explore these “20 great ideas” for a glimpse at the efforts Greater Minnesota Housing Fund has been fortunate enough to be a part of over the past two decades and is proud to support. We salute our partners and look forward to many productive years ahead.

1Launch a housing fund for Greater MinnesotaIn the mid 1990s, two key Minnesota foundations realized there were deep affordable housing needs going unmet in the small towns, rural areas, and tribal communities of Greater Minnesota. Together The McKnight Foundation and Blandin Foundation teamed up to launch Greater Minnesota Housing Fund with initial and ongoing investments in 1996.The McKnight Foundation, Blandin Foundation
2Rise to the challenge with the floodwaterGMHF has worked with communities recovering from floods since its inception, from East Grand Forks in 1997, to St. Peter and SE Minnesota in 2007, and Duluth in 2013. GMHF offers community planning tools like data collection, mapping, market analysis, task force convening, and emergency financing to communities affected by damaging floodwaters.City of East Grand Forks, City of St. Peter, City of Duluth
3Raise funds, build homes in RochesterIn the face of a crippling housing shortage in the Rochester area in 1999, GMHF linked forces with Rochester Area Foundation to provide seed capital and hands-on technical assistance to launch the First Homes community land trust. The private sector responded by committing $12 million to the region's housing needs, resulting in over $150 million in affordable housing development and 1000 new homes.Rochester Area Foundation, First Homes, Mayo
4Encourage employers to help create workforce housing Without more affordable housing, many working families in Greater Minnesota are not able to find safe, decent, affordable housing near their workplace, and many employers cannot easily recruit or retain employees. GMHF engaged major as well as "Main Street" employers with growing businesses in housing-strapped communities to be part of the solution.Hormel, Schwan, Marvin Windows, Polaris
5Model compact development in small townsGMHF's Building Better Neighborhoods program provides hands-on planning advice to community leaders, city officials, planners and developers in Minnesota. The program advocates for smart growth principles that result in quality, affordable homes in livable neighborhoods. The program demonstrated that compact developments with 60' wide lots could be attractive, embraced, and help build community.Cermak Rhoades Architects
6Make every home greenMinnesota Green Communities, a collaborative partnership between Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, the Family Housing Fund, and Enterprise, became the largest green building program in Minnesota and a national model. The program has successfully integrated Green Communities criteria into affordable housing building and design standards statewide.Family Housing Fund, Enterprise
7Respond to the foreclosure crisisOne in 20 households in Minnesota, nearly 100,000 families, faced a foreclosure between 2005 and 2010. GMHF worked with developers to make it possible for low-income homebuyers to access once-foreclosed and rundown, now-rehabbed, updated homes in the hardest hit areas of Minnesota, particularly Central Minnesota.MN Foreclosure Partners Council, National Community Stabilization Trust
8Preserve rural rental propertiesGMHF has become a national leader on preserving rural properties that are at risk of losing unrecoverable rental subsidies in communities with little other affordable housing. Minnesota's supply of affordable rental housing is threatened by physical deterioration, opt-out from federal housing programs, and market-rate conversion. For this work GMHF partners with Minnesota Housing and USDA Rural Development.USDA Rural Development
9Join the movementGMHF appreciates the value of banding together with its peers for greater impact, bringing new capital to Minnesota and exchanging ideas and successful strategies. Becoming a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) put new federal dollars to work in Minnesota. GMHF is also a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and a partner in the Housing Partnership Network, a learning community of peers.Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, Housing Partnership Network
10Take risks others won't takeGMHF admires innovation in its partners and pushes itself to conduct ongoing Research & Development to test new ideas. GMHF has incubated and advanced new strategies for impact investing, employer partnerships, ending homelessness, and ways to implement the "Housing First" model This has resulted in financing housing with supportive services and shoring up manufactured housing.Center City Housing Corp
11Streamline the path to full fundingEarly on, GMHF, Minnesota Housing, and other housing funders teamed up to create a collaborative process to invite housing proposals and jointly award philanthropic and government dollars to the most promising housing developments. The Consolidated RFP process saves developers time and money. Collaborating to jointly award funding for the best housing developments is a gamechanger for Minnesota affordable housing. Minnesota Housing
12Band together to tackle homelessnessOne of the most daunting challenges facing Minnesota is ending homelessness. GMHF participates in multiple cross-sector partnerships to create housing opportunities to help homeless families and individuals thrive. These include Heading Home Minnesota, InterAgency Council on Homelessness, the Stewardship Council, and Homes for All, making progress through the Statewide Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, combined with smart policy and advocacy.Heading Home Minnesota, Homes for All
13Learn from local expertsGMHF co-hosts five Regional Housing Dialogues across the state every year in order to listen and learn from local housing advocates, developers, builders, community organizers, business leaders, and elected officials to understand what's most pressing in each region. Hearing about local trends firsthand helps the state funders fine-tune their programming to better meet emerging needs like workforce housing and senior housing.Minnesota Housing, USDA Rural Development
14Knock down barriers to homeownershipIn an effort to increase rates of homeownership among new immigrants and households of color, GMHF partners with organizations with deep roots in the community like Three Rivers Community Action and Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership. These programs help emerging market buyers gain the knowledge and financing needed to overcome language barriers and affordability gaps to achieve homeownership.Three Rivers Community Action, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership
15Launch an equity fundGMHF launched its nonprofit subsidiary, Minnesota Equity Fund, in 2013 to create a local equity fund dedicated to Minnesota and its growing communities. Developers made it clear many worthy developments were getting passed over by larger syndicators, leaving many workforce housing needs and hard-to-house populations underserved. Created in partnership with Cinnaire, now serving Minnesota and beyond.Cinnaire, UnitedHealth Group
16Testing new low-subsidy modelsGMHF is known for incubating innovative programs and financing in the face of new challenges. When the lack of workforce housing in Greater Minnesota communities emerged as a pressing concern, GMHF created new risk-tolerant products like mezzanine financing and loan payment guarantees to stimulate new workforce housing in key cities like Thief River Falls. Otto Bremer Trust supported the effort with a $1M investment.Otto Bremer Trust
17Harness every resource for those most in needSome developments embody the essence of GMHF's mission, serving high-need populations. When this happens GMHF marshalls every resource to bring a project to life, from predevelopment dollars to TA, gap financing, and tax equity. Examples include Steve O'Neil Apts. (Duluth), Upper Post (Fort Snelling), and Beacon Hill (Grand Rapids) which provide supportive housing for formerly homeless vets, individuals, families, and children.One Roof Community Housing, Center City Housing Corp., City of Duluth
18Engage community leaders to pursue a common visionGMHF partners with Minnesota Housing Partnership to deliver 18-month trainings for regional, multi-jurisdictional "Housing Institutes." The Institutes came out of a need for technical assistance and capacity building at local housing organizations. After 18 months of peer-to-peer learning, many of the Institutes result in on-the-ground developments, bringing new affordable homes to their communities. Minnesota Housing Partnership, Red Lake Nation
19Tap new funding streams for housingLocal housing agencies must perennially scramble to assemble sufficient state and federal dollars to meet their communities' housing needs. GMHF has worked with many county HRAs to gain political will to leverage new local funding streams they hadn't tapped before. These efforts have resulted in millions of new local dollars dedicated to affordable housing through housing levies.Hubbard County HRA, Olmsted County HRA
20Stem the loss of naturally affordable housingNational investors are snapping up below-market apartment properties across the Twin Cities, resulting in minimal improvements and noticeable rent hikes. GMHF is actively engaging social impact investors to help developers preserve this Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, which represents the largest share of affordable housing available in the Twin Cities.CommonBond, Aeon
Colorful banner image featuring the skyline that you might typically see in a small city or town in Greater Minnesota.