Affordable Housing Pilot Program Addresses Duluth Housing Crisis

Updated: July 09, 2019 06:23 PM

With a population of around 86,000 people, the city of Duluth is establishing more aggressive programs to combat the growing need for affordable housing. 

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Twenty percent of Duluth residents live within the poverty threshold, according to the 2018 U.S. census, while rent still averages over $750 a month. 

The Office of Planning and Economic Development, together with the Mayor's Office, plans to focus on rehabilitating existing housing units for affordable living and well as establishing new units within the city.

Mayor Emily Larson Director of Planning and Economic Development Keith Hamre said the project will begin with the Board of Trade unit on the intersection of 1st Street and 3rd Avenue West in downtown Duluth, and a new senior housing unit, Bluffs of Duluth, across from Lake Superior College (LSC). One goal is to establish low-cost loans, that last between ten and fifteen years with a rate between one and three percent. This is meant to encourage residents to invest in their already occupied, or future, homes. 

"We're hoping people will really step up and do some of those projects that they may have thought of doing. Whether it's a new roof, whether it's new windows, or whether it's a new kitchen addition," said the Director of Planning and Economic Development Keith Hamre.

Hamre also said a goal is to permanently establish twenty-five percent of the refurbished homes as affordable housing in Duluth. In 2016 there was a 4,000 unit housing gap in the city and 1,000 have already been added, based on the city's Maxfield study. Another main goal of the project is to establish housing near bus stops, hiking trails, and other local amenities. 

Looking forward, an affordable housing mayor's task force will be created comprising of two city leaders. Also, the first housing developer in the city will be hired in the near future, per Mayor Larson. 

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