City of Duluth Giving Away Land for Affordable Housing

Emily Ness
Updated: November 15, 2019 10:40 PM

On Friday, Mayor Emily Larson and city staff unveiled details for their Rebuild Duluth plan. The plan calls on community members to help develop concepts for affordable housing. The city says that those who come up with ideas that are achievable and that align with the plan's goals of affordability and sustainability, will be gifted the lots of land for free to develop.

“We have identified several vacant and developable lots to be used across the city,” Larson said. “We are seeking developers and creative thinkers who want to put forward ideas of what could go on that land for infill housing that is already on water lines, transportation lines and within neighborhoods and communities for which these lots are ready to be activated.”

In total, the City of Duluth identified 13 sites to be developed. A list of these sites with exact locations and dimensions can be found here.

“This is an example of where the city of Duluth is leading, where we are working really hard to use all of the skills that we have, all of the tools in our toolbox to create different opportunities,” Larson said.

Those who would like to submit concepts for affordable, sustainable housing can fill out an application. In the application, they are asked to include information like a floor plan, a timeline for construction and an estimated budget.

“What we’re looking for at this time is just concept level. We’re not looking for someone to hire an architect to come up with construction level drawings. We want to have submittals that include that concept level drawing and then we will follow up and once someone’s elected, they can start doing that detail level planning for a property,” Fulton said.

According to Fulton, applicants will be scored based on criteria that prioritizes affordability and sustainability. Fulton said that the city is also looking for density where they are able and have had suggestions to consider tiny houses, which they believe could be a good fit for some of these lots.

“We’re trying to build as we go through this process, on the collective knowledge of the city,” Fulton said.

Both Larson and Fulton acknowledged that there are challenges in developing these lots, such as, the lots being narrow, but they believe that creativity and innovation will aid developers in moving past those challenges. Additionally, Larson said that the City of Duluth recently hired a Housing Developer for the first time in Duluth’s history to provide knowledge and guidance to developers. An information session for those who are interested in pursuing development will be held on December 2nd.

“We know we have the need for affordability for families. We know we have the need for affordability for seniors. I think that this is one way we can experiment and kind of see what the need is,” Larson said. “I’m super proud as a city that we’re able to take this risk. I think often cities are shy about putting themselves out there—not knowing the full answer and not knowing fully what can happen. But I’m really proud that several times now, we have tried new ideas to see what will happen and so I’ll be really curious to see what kind of need people are seeking to match up with.”

Applications for development will be due on January 2nd. A little over a month later, the City of Duluth will announce applicants who were selected to move forward, in mid February. Final approval and transfer of the land will occur around April—June.


Emily Ness

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