Northfield, Minnesota, (located halfway between Minneapolis and Rochester) takes pride in its historic and architecturally interesting buildings. So it was no surprise that in 2012, when some of the homes in the community started to cross the line from well-loved to a little ragged, the City of Northfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and Three Rivers Community Action (Three Rivers) stepped in to start a residential revitalization project.
The project, entitled Home Matters 2.0, was built upon a previous collaborative initiative spearheaded by Three Rivers. Home Matters 2.0 specifically targeted low to moderate income homeowners within the neighborhood of Veteran’s Park. The program identified six specific goals they wished to accomplish:
- Increase energy efficiency and promote energy-saving home improvements
- Stabilize neighborhoods by improving housing conditions, curb appeal, and property values
- Address health and safety issues of an aging housing stock
- Enhance public-private partnerships to provide superior service to area residents
- Streamline home improvement process for homeowners, giving them a one-stop shop
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the program and create a model that could be replicated in other neighborhoods or communities
Three Rivers Community Development Director Jenny Larson explained, “In order to encourage homeowner investment, the project was designed to offer matching funds that require a financial obligation from the homeowner, either in the form of their own cash investment, a loan from a private bank, or deferred loan funds.” She continued, “Three Rivers pursued funds from Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) to be offered to homeowners as matching grants.”
For each dollar the homeowners invested, the Northfield HRA matched it with an additional dollar (up to $5,000) in grant funds, making the program an excellent opportunity for low to moderate income homeowners to accomplish larger, more expensive upgrades than they would have been able to complete alone.
Other organizations that helped with the program included Habitat for Humanity, Renew Northfield, Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC), and Xcel Energy.
Home Matters 2.0 identified 10 homes within a 10-block area to make upgrades on. Outdoor efforts included projects such as replacing doors, front stoops and walkways, gutters, improving landscaping, painting, and roof repair/replacement; while indoor projects included bathroom and kitchen renovations, safety precautions, and electrical assistance. Energy efficiency upgrades included maintenance on furnaces/HVAC systems, adding insulation, repairing/replacing windows, updating water heaters and appliances to more efficient models, replacing existing lighting with more efficient options, and installing water-conserving bath fixtures.
With renovations in full swing, the community has looked to the city to keep things rolling. “By involving the city from the beginning, the city took ownership of the project,” explained Larson. She expanded by adding, “A unique outcome of this [program] is that community members responded positively to their city being engaged. Not only do residents trust their city, but Northfield residents seemed to express civic pride that their city (versus the state or an outside group) was engaged and leading this initiative.”
Another benefit from the program was not originally foreseen. “An unintended positive outcome is that some applicants ended up being referred to other income-qualified programs offered through Three Rivers. Two households were determined eligible for Low Income Home Energy Assistant Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program,” Larson added.
Looking to the future, the organizations involved would like to not only continue the Home Matters 2.0 program in Northfield, but also extend it to include higher income households. Three Rivers is hopeful that they will be able to continue work in specifically Veteran’s Park as well as two additional neighborhoods.
See photos and posters related to the Home Matters 2.0 project:
- Location: Northfield, MN (Rice and Dakota Counties)
- Technology: Energy efficiency
- Total cost: $177,232
- SE CERT Funding: $4,345
Want to learn how your community can get a CERTs Seed Grant to advance your work? Applications for the next round of grants are available and due October 26th. To get started, visit the Seed Grant page and see other awarded projects from past years.