MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Northcountry Cooperative Foundation (NCF), a ROC USA® Network Certified Technical Assistance Provider, recently announced that it received $90,000 in grant funding from the USDA Rural Development Office through its Socially Disadvantage Group Grant (SDGG) program. NCF will use these funds to support community improvement projects in cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“NCF focused on three of our co-op clients’ most chronic challenges in this year’s SDGG application – storm water management, storm shelters, and vacant lot infill,” said Victoria Clark, Executive Director at NCF. “The award will allow NCF and our client co-ops to capitalize on recent successes and leverage that success to accelerate innovative, practical, and cost-effective solutions to ongoing infrastructure issues. The solutions developed will not only improve the health, safety, and quality of life for individual co-op members, but will also improve the overall health and financial performance of the larger cooperative corporation to which the members belong.”
The grant period begins in January 2021 and goes through the end of the calendar year, and will work toward solutions for the following challenges:
- Storm water management and drainage solutions. Each community that converts to cooperative ownership performs a Physical Capital Needs Assessment (PCNA) which informs their reserve funding needs. An area that is often noted in these reports is storm water management, though implementable and cost-effective solutions are often beyond the scope of the physical assessment. Lack of proper drainage in manufactured home communities leads to ponding in the streets and lawns which can be detrimental to on site structures as well as the deterioration of roads, walkways, parking pads, and general soil erosion. NCF will deploy the SDGG award to work with engineers to develop cost-effective drainage solutions that can be used in the communities they serve.
- Storm shelters and community buildings. Many manufactured home cooperatives in NCF’s portfolio lack an adequate storm shelter. These spaces are not only critical for providing emergency shelter during severe weather events but also serve a dual-purpose of providing a place where the business and social functions of the cooperative can take place. The SDGG funds will be used to engage an architect to develop cost-effective prototype designs for dual-use storm shelter and community buildings. This activity builds on the success of shelter prototype design work NCF completed in 2016. The 2016 designs were used to develop a successful funding application to Minnesota Housing for a first of its kind stand-alone storm shelter project completed in 2019 at Park Plaza Cooperative in Fridley, Minn.
- New manufactured home placement and home replacement. The greatest threat to manufactured home cooperatives is the loss of homes and the barriers to bringing in replacement homes to stabilize revenue. As manufactured housing stock ages, certain homes become irreparable and must be demolished each year. Across the four SDGG co-op recipients included in this year’s award, there is nearly $150,000 revenue lost each year due to vacant lots remaining unfilled. As witnessed in Zumbro Ridge Estates (Rochester, Minn.), a successful infill program requires securing partnerships with a lender, a home dealer, and a plan to oversee the marketing and sales of homes. The SDGG will fund the development of a comprehensive infill and home replacement guide, which will be used in the field to assist cooperatives in developing their own homeownership programs.
NCF’s mission is to transform lives and communities through cooperative enterprise. Since 2004, NCF has worked with residents of twelve manufactured housing communities to help them purchase, own, and operate their communities, delivering resident ownership to 900 households in transactions valued over $30 million. NCF is a founding network partner of ROC USA. For more information about NCF, visit northcountryfoundation.org.