As luxury developments take shape in Duluth, the need for affordable housing continues

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With an industry at it’s peak and more people looking to move to the Duluth area, the local housing market has been booming over the past two years.

With this reality, there are many new, higher-end developments popping up in the area – and that is exciting a lot of prospective buyers.

"We have a wonderful new condominium project that we’re bringing for the community of Duluth, said Sandy Hoff, project developer and president of F.I. Salter Real Estate. "It is a 16 unit, luxury condominium facility located right on the shore of Lake Superior."

Set to be built near 23rd Avenue east, The Breakers condos will be adjacent to the lake walk. Though it’s still in the design phase, Hoff says the interest is already there.

"We’ve had a number of people reach out to us who are already interested. They live currently in homes in Duluth so, presumably, they will sell those homes, move here and it’ll help some vertical integration of residential housing."

But as more high end options are popping up, the market need for affordable housing in the area is ramping up too.

"The market is on fire in all phases," Hoff explained. "From workforce housing all the way up to high end housing."

Noah Hobbs, lending director at One Roof Community Housing echoed that notion.

"Duluth certainly has a housing shortage. It’s across the spectrum but the largest need in our housing portfolio is households earning 80% below the area median income," said Hobbs. "To put that need into context, it’s about 3,500 households that the city could absorb."

Hobbs explained that 80% and below the median income correlates to rents between $550 and $700 per month, depending on bedroom numbers and sizing.

With more people looking to rent in the area, the competitive market is also raising prices.

"Rental prices are certainly going up and that’s because of the vacancy rate being so small and having that tight market," said Hobbs. "So bringing out any additional rental units will be helpful in expanding that number so rent can come down a little bit."

What Hobbs refers to as a ‘good start’ to solving the issue is the $19 million from the federal government for COVID relief that is dedicated to housing.

He noted that this issue won’t be a quick fix. Aside from pandemic funding, the city is holding a press conference Tuesday morning to announce the creation of a proposed Housing Trust Fund.