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Fellows Program FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who should apply to join the learning cohort?

The Housing & Health Equity Learning Cohort (the “H&HE Fellows Program”) is intended to advance the work of health institutions that understand the importance of stable, affordable housing as a social determinant of health and are committed to exploring and investing to improve community health and equity. We are looking for teams of leaders from health plans, health systems, hospitals, or other healthcare organizations whose Chief Executive Officer or key C-suite leadership is willing to endorse the team’s participation. Team members should be individuals who can contribute to shifting investment resources upstream towards social determinants of health and affordable housing as a key factor that impacts community health.

What is a “Fellows Team” and who should be on it?

The Fellows Team refers to a group of 3-6 individuals from a healthcare institution applying to participate in the Housing & Health Equity (H&HE) Learning Cohort (i.e., the H&HE Fellows Program). Teams should consist of participants from across departments like treasury or finance, facilities, community or population health, community benefit, and community and government affairs. The team should consist of individuals who can work together to advance the program or project goals articulated in the application. Six to eight Healthcare Fellows Teams will be selected.

Can you have members of the team from outside the healthcare institution?

Yes, it is possible. There are important benefits of having an internal team focused on moving forward goals to action with cross-departmental teams to accelerate the work. However, if there is an external partner that is involved directly in a project or an integral implementation partner, there would be a benefit to include them on the team. It is possible, subject to GMHF approval.

What is a Team Leader Role?

The Team Leader for a “Fellows Team” is the key contact at the Healthcare Institution when the application is submitted. This person will continue to be the key contact and coordinator of communication between the Housing & Health Equity Fellows program and the healthcare institution Fellows team over the period of the program.

What do you mean by Senior Leadership?

Senior Leadership involvement means that there is at least one representative on the fellows’ team that has decision making authority over an area of work at the healthcare institution. There is some control over a budget that would be available to utilize toward advancing a program or project that will be advanced through this collective work.

What is meant by providing a letter of support from the CEO or C-Suite leader?

The letter of support is simply a letter from leadership that acknowledges the application to the H&HE Fellows Program. The letter should show support for the proposed focus and assure that the focus aligns the healthcare institution’s plans and direction related to expanding focus on addressing social determinants of health through innovative actions that link housing, health, and equity.

Will there need to be a housing project specifically as the focus to participate?

No, not yet. While there could be a specific affordable housing related project that is part of the proposal you will advance, we are also looking for organizations that will work toward shifting organizational priorities and investment toward addressing social determinants of health through affordable housing. Your healthcare institution may be at a point where a specific project or investment is clear. There may also be a general direction or interest in using other assets of the healthcare institution such as underutilized land to advance affordable housing as a social determinant of health. Other examples might be to determine community re-use of facilities or surface parking lots for affordable housing or services, establishing an investment policy statement or protocol for a portfolio of affordable housing investments, or partnering with developers to incorporate Permanent Supportive Housing, respite units, or other housing stabilization features into a development. We are looking for innovative approaches that link housing, health, and equity outcomes as a key social determinant of health.

Are we committing to investing in affordable housing?

There is not a specific commitment to invest in housing. However, there is an expectation that through this program there will be investment in affordable housing strategies in the institution’s future. The project focus may be related to creating a framework and action plan to be able to invest in affordable housing as a social determinant of health. This very much falls in line with trends in the healthcare field and expectations in the Affordable Care Act to improve community health and reduce disparities in healthcare.

What is meant by the term “investment” in the context of the Housing & Health Equity Learning Cohort?

Investment can be inclusive of a broad array of financial and other tools that are used to advance your organization’s mission and goals. Grants, community care dollars, donations, time, expertise can all be considered investments. However, in this context we refer to investment that goes beyond strictly grantmaking resources. Investments can generate both financial and social returns and are sometimes referred to as “double bottom line” or “impact” investments. The following definition comes from Improving Community Health by Strengthening Community Investment, a useful framing that articulates a broader array of tools that healthcare institutions could use in pursuing their mission. “Community investments come in different forms, including loans, bonds, equity, federal or state tax credits, credit guarantees, or pay for success arrangements, depending upon what is being financed. Investments may go directly into projects, for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises, such as developers or local businesses, intermediaries, or structured investment vehicles. They can have near-zero returns, return principal only, or offer the possibility of risk-adjusted market rate returns.” Exploration of investment tools is a differentiating focus of the Housing & Health Equity Fellows Program.

What type of reporting will be required of participating fellows’ teams?

Any reporting will be minimal. There is an expectation that the reason for entering the learning cohort is part of your healthcare institution’s goals to expand investment in SDOH/housing and will move forward and be implemented with the learning and support provided by the program. A final presentation on the goals, progress, and implementation will be the core “report” that is part of the learning cohort process. There may be other information and/or data collected to record progress, but it will be minimal.

What are the expectations of “fellows”?

While formal reporting will be minimal there are expectations for the fellows’ teams. The teams will be expected to prepare and submit preparatory materials before workshops and meaningfully advance their work during the duration of the learning cohort. The result from this engagement includes shifting investment strategy and resources toward upstream solutions to community health, racial equity, and affordable housing.

What is the definition of ’affordable housing’ for the purposes of the project?

Minnesota Housing and the federal government provide guidance on affordable housing in terms of income levels served typically at or below 30% Adjusted Median Income (AMI), 30-50% AMI, 50-80% AMI, and below 120% AMI for homeownership programs. Housing serving these levels of income are all part of the housing continuum and can be the target for efforts under this project. Housing developed or preserved through similar programs with similar requirements will satisfy the definition of affordable housing for the purposes of the project, as well.

Is housing for special needs populations an eligible project type?

Yes, however there is no expectation that there will be a priority focus in this specific housing type. Any housing that provides stability to a lower income household improves well-being and health. There are natural overlaps and shared outcomes between mission driven housing and healthcare organizations that connect serving priority populations.

Is for-sale affordable housing an eligible project type?

Yes. A partnership to provide healthy home upgrades to enable homeowners with low incomes to remain safely and stably housed, with enhanced access to health services, is an example of a potentially eligible project type. A partnership that supports new for-sale home development could also be eligible, provided it protects against displacement of existing residents with low incomes. The strategy may be to stabilize a neighborhood surrounding a healthcare facility.

Are anchor institution strategies included as a potential focus for a fellow’ team?

Absolutely, an anchor institution strategy very often focuses on place-based investment. It can include procurement strategy, personnel (or workforce strategy), and place-making (place-based investment) as key areas that offer tremendous impact while advancing a healthier community surrounding a healthcare facility. Very often there is a focus on low-income families and affordable workforce housing needs identified by a neighborhood (and a healthcare employer) as a priority. Workforce housing serves employees that despite having a job remain unable to pay a market rate rent in their community. There are healthcare workers who would benefit from affordable workforce housing.

Can projects contain commercial or community uses?

Yes, if they provide equal access and direct benefits to existing residents and low incomes communities. Commercial/community space that enhances delivery of health supporting services integrated with a mixed-use housing development offers synergistic opportunities to advance housing & health equity. For example, clinic expansion might include the creation of affordable housing with healthcare facilities as a mixed-use development.

Will Fellows Teams in the learning cohort be expected to work together on strategy, program, or projects?

There is no expectation that teams will work together. However, learning and sharing experiences with each other is expected. This might lead to discussions of shared or joint actions that arise through deliberations of the learning cohort. We are often faced with challenges that might be more effectively solved through collaborative efforts.

Are either grant or financing resources available through the Housing & Health Equity Fellows Program?

Financing affordable housing is what Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and Minnesota Housing do on a regular basis. While financing is not guaranteed, there are existing financing resources that could be leveraged toward development projects that are advanced through this engagement. All projects would be subject to the same review of other affordable housing developments, but development services provided through this engagement will help maximize the projects competitiveness to access GMHF and Minnesota Housing financing options.


You are encouraged to contact Eric Muschler, Director of Housing & Health Equity at GMHF with further questions. emuschler@gmhf.com

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