A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Affordable Housing Initiatives

Last Revised: Oct 09, 2008 - Initial Posting: Nov 11, 2003

Three Rivers Community Action, Inc. develops safe, decent and affordable rental and ownership housing in Southeastern Minnesota using a community-based collaborative approach to project planning and financing.


Three Rivers Community Action has been certified as a non-profit community housing development organization (CHDO) working with communities to develop safe and decent housing that is affordable to a variety of households.  The agency has been successful with conventional and alternative housing development projects including:

  • Town-homes
  • Single Family Starter Homes
  • Subdivision Development
  • Apartments
  • Community Land Trust
  • Rehabilitation
  • Supportive Housing

Financing for individual projects has relied on the ability to leverage support available through several funding sources such as:

Three Rivers takes the approach of involving the community to meet local housing and community development needs.  The agency uses a community-based approach to evaluate local needs, outline potential strategies, connect with state and local resources, implement community plans and develop workforce housing.  The community provides essential input, ideas and resources for the proposed plan.  For example, focus groups are organized as part of a CHAT (Community Housing Assessment Team) to formulate housing strategies.  This process also incorporates data analysis and windshield surveys.

The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) offers excellent materials including actual floor plans to support creation of affordable housing.  Building Better Neighborhoods: Creating Affordable Homes and Livable Communities is an excellent book with chapters available (along with ordering information) on the GMHF web site.

An Employer Assisted Housing: Resource Guide is another GMHF publication - also see Employer Assisted Housing: Lessons Learned (slides).

Wazuweeta Woods is one example of the multi-faceted approach followed by Three Rivers.  This is a neighborhood-oriented development with a 24-unit apartment building, 33 single-family homes and a 2.5-acre park.  An affordability analysis of the single-family homes reflects a total development cost of $128,000 that is offset by funding from several partners to reduce the cost to buyers to a range of $90,500 - $113,000.  Thereby, total monthly payments are calculated from $680 - $752 for targeted families with incomes of $27,190 - $30,060 (hourly wage targets of $13.07 - $14.45).

The Southeastern Minnesota Housing Network was established to ensure communication among agencies, businesses, communities and individuals around the housing issues that affect the communities in the region.  Monthly meetings are held to focus on housing issues through sharing of experiences and a dialogue involving communities and developers.

To further enhance the ability of low-income families to acquire affordable housing, Three Rivers is exploring ways that Section 8 payments could be used toward the costs of a home mortgage.


A summary of Three Rivers Community Action's Housing Experience reflects the extensive accomplishments of the agency's housing efforts.  Through April 2008, TRCA raised over $45.6 million in funds for 460 units of housing in southeastern Minnesota, over 400 of which were already built and occupied and another 60 were in various stages of development.

Three Rivers Community Action's Housing Experience


Mike Thorsteinson, Executive Director