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$5 million from Mayo Clinic gives housing effort a boost

Contribution to coalition is being combined with $10 million previously committed by Olmsted County.

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Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of practice at Mayo Clinic, speaks during a press conference hosted by the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing to announce efforts to bridge the affordable housing gap in Olmsted County Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at Mayowood Acres in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Plans to spend $15 million to address area housing needs officially kicked off Thursday morning.

“It won’t do it all, but it’s a significant commitment we are proud to be part of,” said Olmsted County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden, who represents the county as part of the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing.

Mayo Clinic, which helped start the coalition in late 2017 with a $4 million commitment, announced Thursday it will contribute another $5 million.

“Our goal is that every single person in our community can live a life of dignity and health,” said Amy Williams, Mayo Clinic’s executive dean of practice.

The $5 million will be combined with a previous $10 million commitment of federal funds received by Olmsted County.

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Jennifer Woodford, president of the Rochester Area Foundation, during a press conference hosted by the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing to announce efforts to bridge the affordable housing gap in Olmsted County Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at Mayowood Acres in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Jeremy Emmi, who serves as director for the coalition that also includes the city of Rochester, Rochester Area Foundation and the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, said the funds that started coalition have largely been committed.

In addition to the Mayo Clinic original contribution, the city and county each contributed $250,000 in 2018.

The effort has also been supported by city and county programs and policy changes, and the Rochester City Council has discussed the possibility of committing up to $1 million of its federal COVID-relief funds to it. That will be discussed at the council meeting Monday.

As the coalition nears its fourth anniversary, Williams noted efforts have helped build 640 units of housing and provided an estimated $112 million economic impact, but she and other coalition member said the need continues.

“Our rate of economic growth is outpacing our ability to provide homes for the people who fuel that growth,” Rochester City Council member Patrick Keane said. “As a coalition, we are seeking to develop a broad and sustainable housing market that works for more people, today and into the future.”

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Patrick Keane, Rochester City Council member, speaks during a press conference hosted by the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing to announce efforts to bridge the affordable housing gap in Olmsted County Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at Mayowood Acres in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Jennifer Woodford, president of the Rochester Area Foundation, said the county has an estimated demand for 6,000 new housing units in the next decade, but the current pace would only fill 68% of the need.

She said increased construction costs hamper the ability for the market to build more affordable housing, which is where the coalition can help.

“The Coalition for Rochester Area Housing is uniquely positioned to creatively address the housing crisis issue in the Rochester area,” she said. The funds allow developers to create innovative ways to fill housing needs, she said.

Among projects the coalition has helped is the development of Mayowood Acres on the former Crossroads Bible College campus in Southwest Rochester.

Owned and operated by the nonprofit Bear Creek Development Center, the campus provides a variety of affordable units, which were bolstered by a $350,000 first-year coalition grant, as well as a $136,000 forgivable loan to create 17 new units this year.

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Jeff Urban, executive director of Bear Creek Development Center, Inc., speaks during a press conference hosted by the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing to announce efforts to bridge the affordable housing gap in Olmsted County Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at Mayowood Acres in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

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Jeff Urban, Bear Creek Christian Church’s outreach pastor and executive director of Bear Creek Development Center, said Thursday six new units dedicated to veterans are envisioned.

“Each unit will be committed to serving people getting back on their feet,” he said.

Bear Creek has requested a $60,000 grant and up to $250,000 in a loan from the coalition for the anticipated $450,000 project, which will convert an existing shed into six studio apartments similar to the 17 Mayowood Acres filled this year.

Urban said a $200,000 fund-raising goal has been set for the project, so the final amount of the coalition request won’t be known until the anticipated April construction date nears.

Dave Dunn, the county’s housing director, said several other projects are being considered by the coalition, but it’s too early to announce them, but the goal is to address housing goals established by the coalition.

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Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of practice at Mayo Clinic, speaks during a press conference hosted by the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing to announce efforts to bridge the affordable housing gap in Olmsted County Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at Mayowood Acres in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

The goals include addressing needs for affordable rental housing, as well as support for addressing racial gaps in homeownership. Other targets include helping address senior housing needs and renovations that can keep existing homes affordable.

“It’s a balanced approach,” Dunn said.

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