Mayo Clinic primed the pump for a newly created community collaborative designed to gather resources for creating and preserving affordable and workforce-priced housing.
With a $4 million pledge, the clinic provided two-thirds of the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing's two-year fundraising goal.
"A vibrant, growing community brings changing community needs," said Jeff Bolton, chief administrative officer at Mayo Clinic. "Affordable housing has been a long-standing and complex challenge. Mayo has been active and involved over its history, including the First Homes program and more recently through engagement on the Olmsted County Housing Initiative. We are proud to continue this legacy today."
The coalition's founding partners — Rochester Area Foundation, the City of Rochester, Olmsted County and Mayo Clinic — unveiled plans Thursday to raise $6 million during the next two years to address housing needs.
Steve Borchardt, Rochester Area Foundation's housing initiative director, said he sees the benefit going beyond the money raised in two years.
"For me, the big get is the structure that has everyone willing to play," he said.
The coalition's framework, which was released Thursday, seeks to formalize the decision-making process for projects supported by the new Rochester Area Housing Fund.
Under the plan, Rochester Area Foundation and First Homes staff will collect ideas and proposals for affordable and workforce housing projects. Once finalized and prioritized, they will be submitted to the coalition's leadership council.
The council will include representatives from the four founding partners, as well as some future contributors. Any individuals or groups contributing more than $250,000 will likely be asked to appoint a representative to the council.
Jennifer Woodford, president of the Rochester Area Foundation, said the goal is to get as many people involved as possible but also maintain an invested governing body.
"This coordinated, decision-making structure relies on community input to bring forward proposals and ideas," she said. "Additionally, we will leverage the expertise of local nonprofits and companies across disciplines to vet proposals to ensure we are targeting gaps in today's market and using resources efficiently."
Following Thursday's announcement, CURE — Communities United for Rochester's Empowerment, which has been lobbying Mayo Clinic to support affordable housing efforts since October, issued a statement calling the effort a move in the right direction.
"We have been fighting so hard because we believe every family in Rochester deserves a safe, affordable place to live," organizer Marian Aanerud said in the statement. "We are happy Mayo and Rochester Area Foundation have finally acted in response to the community concerns brought by CURE and so many others.
"We know that funding projects alone won't solve this crisis, so we will push for real direct community input on how this money is used. The people facing this crisis should be at the table so that these funds are used wisely and for the good of all."
Rochester City Council President Randy Staver and Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown said the local government roles in the new coalition will be varied.
Staver indicated plans to discuss possible funding support from the city, which Woodford said could be targeted to specific projects for the city council to maintain direct oversight of any tax dollars used. In recent months, the council has discussed creating its own housing fund to support specific projects.
Brown said the county's support will be a continuation of efforts already being undertaken by the county's Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
While the HRA focuses largely on housing for low-income families, he said the coalition will address needs for other working-class families who may struggle to pay current housing prices.
"We all need a motivated and rested workforce to help this community grow," he said.
Woodford said the coalition will likely hit the ground running in 2018.
"We're hopeful that we will be announcing a major project before the end of June," she said.
While unable to discuss potential projects before coalition review, she said the foundation has had inquiries about funding specific projects.
She said the goal will be to find a first project that can have an immediate impact and expand options for affordable housing.