The current housing economy boasts an influx of foreclosed properties, but there are very few concrete examples available as to how to proactively combat the trend.

Coon Rapids, Minn., has found a reproducable model in its Home for Generations program. The program began in 2009, and it has been a tangible demonstration to homeowners and potential homebuyers that they can invest in the city's aging housing stock despite the current economy.

Through the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), the city purchases a handful of foreclosed homes at a modest price. It then identifies a scope of work for each home by utilizing innovative remodeling ideas to address the concerns commonly voiced about the features/amenities of older homes (i.e. lack of storage space, tight floor plan.) The amenities are added, the homes are remodeled, and residents are invited to experience the transformation through a series of open houses – before, during and after construction.

After four years and five house remodels, nearly 8,000 residents (13 percent of the city) participated in at least one open house.

A successful component of Home for Generations has been demonstrating to homeowners how they can afford to make similar improvements. At the open houses, 'before' and 'after' photos are mounted throughout the house so visitors can observe the transformation. Painters tape is used to show where floor plan changes were made, and price tags are displayed throughout the house, detailing the cost of each individual project. Contractors, realtors and city staff are available for questions, and posters and flyers promote the use of liquidators, re-use centers, building material outlets, tax credits and incentives, and low-interest financing. Current contractor availability and pricing, and remodeling advisor services (available free to residents) are also made available to provide homeowners with the tools needed to make personal projects happen.

Unlike many public sector-initiated remodels, the goal of Home for Generations has always been to "break even" financially on each house; even after five remodels, Coon Rapids has been able to recapture most of the initial hard costs, with proceeds circling back to the HRA.

Fixing up one distressed, foreclosed home in a neighborhood is great, but the community-wide impact is nominal. Ultimately, the result of this program is that residents will now apply these innovative and cost-effective remodeling ideas to their own homes.