Duluth should gain 87 units of quality affordable housing as a result of investments the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency announced it will make in the city next year. The agency unveiled plans Thursday to provide more than $18 million in total support for Duluth projects. The city garnered about 7% of the $254 million in Minnesota Housing aid to be distributed statewide in this year's round of funding.
The assistance includes the following:
- $10.3 million to subsidize the construction of a 42-unit apartment building called Decker Dwellings off Decker Road next to Schneiderman's Furniture
- $6.3 million to help Center City Housing build the proposed 30-unit Birchwood Apartments building behind Birch Tree Center off Burning Tree Road
- $1.45 million to assist One Roof Community Housing's plan to purchase, rehab and sell 15 more single-family Land Trust homes in Duluth
Mayor Emily Larson praised the state for recognizing the need for additional housing in Duluth, referring to the investments as "overdue." Last year, the city was skunked in its applications for MHFA funding.
"There are significant housing needs across the state, and it has been really frustrating and disappointing to see the work and needs of Duluth go unfunded and underfunded," she said.
"I made my view very clear to organizations down in St. Paul about the need for geographic equity in their investments," Larson said, noting the need for resources beyond the Twin Cities metro area, and especially in regional centers such as Duluth.
"We have more need for sure, but to see these projects come to fruition at a time when housing is on the forefront of everyone's mind is really really gratifying." she said.
The last local project to receive MHFA funding was the Garfield Square development a couple years ago, and Larson noted that that project, while significant, doesn't increase the local supply of affordable housing, as it essentially replaces substandard units in the Esmond Building, formerly known as the Seaway Hotel.
"One Roof has had a tough couple of years where we didn't get anything funded," said Jeff Corey, executive director of the organization. "So, this is really hopeful for Duluth."
"I think it's indicative of the energy that we have currently with the mayor's housing task force and a lot of folks in the community asking: How do we bring more affordable housing here?" Corey said.
The MHFA support should help One Roof buy and revitalize 15 neglected houses, turning them into desirable yet affordable places to live.
"It's a really good award on a per-unit basis and a total-number-of-units-basis," he said. "It's among the highest we've received for single-family homes. So, we're real pleased with it."
One Roof also is involved in the Decker Dwellings project, which Corey said is "in a good area of town for folks that are part of the workforce up there in the retail sector of the town."
He predicted service workers and others employed in and around the Central Entrance/Miller Hill Mall commercial corridor should find Decker Dwellings an attractive yet affordable housing option.
"It's an opportunity for folks to live pretty close to where they work," Corey said.