Faced with one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation, a new coalition in Rochester plans to raise $2 million over two years — with another $4 million already pledged by the Mayo Clinic — to fight the problem.

The newly formed Coalition for Rochester Area Housing will create and preserve affordable housing, the group said in a statement, but how that ultimately is accomplished hasn't yet been decided, said one of its members.

"We're going to be looking for gaps that currently aren't being met by the existing tools," said Steve Borchardt, of the Rochester Area Foundation. That may include low-interest loans for some projects, building or managing some housing, or paying for pilot projects or model homes that could steer development of new housing, he said.

The coalition will also encourage the community to propose ideas.

Coalition members include the Rochester Area Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, the city of Rochester and Olmsted County. The Rochester Area Foundation, established in 1944 by a longtime chief administrator at the Mayo Clinic, also runs First Homes, a nonprofit that helps low- and moderate-income families buy a house.

Borchardt said the new coalition will not duplicate efforts already underway.

Rochester Area Foundation President Jennifer Woodford said in a statement that the coalition plans to find more partners.

The average price for Rochester homes jumped almost 10 percent this year, according to the Southeast Minnesota Realtors Association, with homes priced in the $200,000 range typically getting multiple offers the day they hit the market.

The hot real estate market made Rochester third worst in the nation for affordable housing in a recent report from Nationwide Insurance.

Driving some of the market demand has been the $5.6 billion Destination Medical Center project, a massive expansion of the Mayo Clinic that promises to draw tens of thousands of new employees to the southeast Minnesota city over the next 20 years.

At a recent DMC Corp. board meeting, local activists from a group called Communities United for Rochester Empowerment urged the board to find solutions to the city's housing crisis.

Some of the novel efforts already underway include a mobile home park that was recently sold to its occupants. That type of sale rarely occurs, but now the resident owners of the Zumbro Ridge Estates trailer park hope to invest in the park and fill the last vacant spaces with new residents.

A local Rochester church, meanwhile, bought a shuttered college campus with the aim of turning a portion of it into affordable housing.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747