Making Duluth housing more affordable

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With many struggling to find affordable homes, the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority helps community members access decent, safe, and affordable conditions. 

“The HRA has a few different programs here,” said Executive Director Jill Keppers. “We have our public housing program and our project based rental assistance program and our voucher program to help with rental housing in our community. We also have a couple of homeownership programs. One of them, through our rehab and real estate department, offers houses for sale at 0% interest and a contract for DEED. You have to be income qualified for those houses, and so if people are interested in learning more about that, they can contact the HRA and ask for their real estate department.”

The construction training program helps provide more affordable homes.

“We’re finding houses that are condemned or foreclosed or just available for purchase that need substantial rehab,” explained Keppers. “Our training crew works and rehabilitates those houses, and then we sell those to at an affordable price for low or moderate income households.”

The HRA also oversees the Housing Trust Fund.

The city provides the funds, we do the loan underwriting and the administration and draw requests,” said HRA Director of Real Estate and Home Rehab Jake Morgan. “We do basically all the administration up until the end of the project where the money is paid back to the city.”

“The housing trust fund was established to bring low interest loans to new developers that want to come and try new projects here in Duluth to try to increase our housing stock or repurpose existing buildings,” explained Keppers.

Repurposing old buildings can often be cheaper than building new.

“New construction prices are what they are. I mean, there’s labor and there’s materials and there’s land and there’s utility hookups, and so to build a brand new home in Duluth is going to cost a lot of money,” said Keppers. “There are companies out there like One Roof Community Housing that have a community land trust program, and so they are able to get additional subsidies from other sources in order to build a house that could be affordable to someone at a moderate income.”

The HRA has more projects planned for the future, such as the Brewery Creek development. The website offers a starting point to access their many resources. 

“The housing trust fund still has a lot of space for more applications. We’ve received a lot of free applications and we’re moving forward with a couple and we’d love to see more,” said Morgan. “There’s incentives in the housing trust fund, lower interest rates and forgivable grant components for affordable housing development or rehab, so the more people that apply the better.”