The new executive director at Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota says he wants to expand relationships and find out where the organizations services are most need to address affordable housing issues.
With 25-plus years of experience working with community-based non-profit organizations and providing social services, Dr. Bruce Bjork came to the organization after working as the Director of Program Development and Strategic Relations for the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.
“Did that for sixteen years, had been doing some non-profit management consulting the last five or six years. When this position opened up, it seemed like a really excellent fit for my experience, my interests, my skills and what I wanted to do.”
He says one of the challenges right now is finding young people to be involved and help build homes, because the traditional volunteer base is starting to age.
“Housing is difficult to do affordably. I mean obviously, if affordable housing was something that the marketplace could handle, we would be doing that. But, it’s very difficult to build and make affordable housing available for people who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a mortgage and we do that primarily, the real vehicle for that is our no-interest mortgages that we provide.”
Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota builds in twelve communities in the service area, which includes Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Nicollet, Sibley and Watonwan County. The organization constructs approximately five houses a year right now.
Beyond building the homes, Bjork says if communities don’t find ways to address affordable housing, it won’t become an attractive place for economic development and businesses will find themselves short of workers.
“Having affordable rentals, having affordable home ownership. From the basic starter home, which is what Habitat provides. Stepping on up, you can have a lot of high-end homes, but if there isn’t any way for people to get to that by accumulating wealth that they can then put into either a business or their kid’s education or into a larger home later. It’s all tied together and it all needs to be understood as a housing continuum.”
Bjork grew up in Le Sueur and has a Bachelors degree in Social Studies, a Masters in Educational Administration, a Master of Divinity and a Doctorate Degree of Education in Interdisciplinary and Transformational Leadership.