Habitat Winona-Fillmore, Minn. State College join to build homes, train construction students

Rural Construction
Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties and Minnesota State College Southeast build one new rural home a year for a qualified Habitat for Humanity home buyer. (Habitat for Humanity photo)

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) — Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties and Minnesota State College Southeast are teaming up to help ease a serious affordable housing shortage in the Winona area.
The nonprofit and the college are collaborating to build one new rural home a year for a qualified Habitat for a  Humanity home buyer. The construction work will be the lab for MSC Southeast Construction Technology students.
The concept evolved from the fact that building enough homes to meet demand has been challenging without enough skilled workers to replace those who retire, Habitat and MSC officials say.
Winona County Profile data show that the county needs hundreds more affordable owner-occupied housing units at the same time the construction industry needs an influx of new professionals.
Using post-construction financing through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, funds used to build the home will be recycled into the program.
Habitat for Humanity and MSC Southeast representatives who are approaching the community for an initial investment of $250,000 announced that Jerry and Pat Papenfuss have provided a lead gift of $100,000 to kick it off.
The initiative is intended to build home after home, year after year, at the same time it trains legions of construction students, strengthening the local construction industry and increasing affordable housing options.
Habitat partners with individuals and families from application, through construction, to when the mortgage is signed. The Habitat home buyers are required to participate in the building process.
The Construction Technology program at Minnesota State College Southeast, previously focused solely on carpentry, was reconfigured in the fall of 2018 with an expanded emphasis on planning, designing, estimating and blueprint reading, as well as robotic building layout, solar and green building.
The new program was designed around a partnership with Habitat so students would learn the skills of the trade and the value of service to the community.
“The thing I like most about the Construction Technology program is the hands-on aspect of it,” said
student Joshua Husman.
“Last year, we built an addition on the Habitat ReStore here in Winona. It was really great to be able to work hands-on with our instructor and mentors from ReStore instead of having to learn behind a computer,” Husmann said.
More than 50 students have enrolled in the program, either for the one-year diploma or the two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Construction Technology. All of the program’s graduates have found employment, and almost stay within 50 miles of Winona.
MSC Southeast graduates are working at Wieser Brothers Construction, Allen Construction, Bosteter Windows and Siding, KBS, Larson Construction, River Valley Construction, Schwab Construction and more to help meet the region’s workforce needs.