What constitutes as affordable housing in Duluth?

Ever since Monday’s unveiling of the Fairmount Cottages, there’s been criticism that Duluth’s affordable housing isn’t that affordable.

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The Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority says when they work on a new development they base their renting and purchasing prices off of the Area Median Income data from the United States Development of Housing and Urban Development or “HUD”.

Executive Director of the Duluth HRA, Jill Keppers says, “HUD will say here’s your Area Median Income for your jurisdiction. And if a household is paying 30% or less of their income towards housing, that’s considered affordable.”

The Area Median Income for a household of four people in Duluth is $93,500. The HRA also has to account for the cost of building units in Duluth.

Keppers says, “In order for us to get the loans, in order to build the housing, we have to look at ‘what metrics are we going to use?’ And so we use those Area Median Incomes to set our rents to know how much debt it will support. And then we can charge those rents, because we know they will be 30% or less of that persons income for that income range.”

To making the lowest price suggested by HUD even lower, the city has resources to step in to help lower the price.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson says that funds from the pre-pandemic Duluth Housing Trust Fund help making things more affordable for residents. She says, “That is money that is being put in to directly impact that math of affordability, so that we can permanently fund long-term affordable units.”

And according to her, Duluth is one of the first cities to implement that. “These are things that we do as a municipality that a lot of cities aren’t doing yet.”

And with housing being a big topic in the mayoral race WDIO also reached out to candidate Roger Reinert to get his thoughts on affordable housing.

Roger believes the lack of middle income housing is what’s causing problems for both high and low income people. He says, “we’ve done a good job of creating more affordable housing, but where we really have a crisis right now is in the middle of the market. Just that average home and the average Duluthian… that’s income of $38,000 as an individual or $56,000 as a family. The home that they can afford to buy and increasingly it does not exist.”