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Local View: Sustainable Housing Trust Fund will strengthen Duluth's future

From the column: "(It) will leverage millions of additional dollars to increase our housing stock through infill development and flexible multi-unit housing programs."

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David Fitzsimmons / Cagle Cartoons

A 2019 housing study in Duluth by Maxfield Research and Consulting showed a gap of 3,500 housing units. Filling this gap will take a lot of work and innovative programs to encourage the building of new homes and the rehabilitation of aging single- and multi-unit housing. Developing and preserving this much housing will take a long time, which is why the recently approved Housing Trust Fund needs to be fully funded to become a sustainable resource for landlords, developers, and homeowners far into the future.

The Duluth Housing Trust Fund is a resource thanks to the collaboration of the city of Duluth, the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in Duluth. The city has transferred $4 million into the fund from its Community Investment Trust, and the national office of LISC has committed $2 million in loan resources to the fund while working with community partners to raise another $3 million in private equity. The HRA will manage the city’s program and will devote staff time and other resources to make the program a success for the community. LISC will partner with the city and HRA and oversee funds that LISC provides to the program, as well as other LISC resources.

Duluth’s Housing Trust Fund will leverage millions of additional dollars to increase our housing stock through infill development and flexible multi-unit housing programs. There is also a comprehensive rehab and conversion program to upgrade existing housing or underused commercial buildings that can be converted or repurposed into quality housing.

This fund uses revolving loan funds to provide capital for housing development, which means the funding will recycle to continue to be available for future projects. This is a great, innovative way to encourage affordable and workforce housing to be built, rented, and/or sold.

Duluth needs to implement a sustainable Housing Trust Fund, which will increase our tax base and will be good for our city in the long term. That is why a 0.84% levy allocation dedicated to this program, supported in Mayor Emily Larson’s final budget proposal for 2022, is so important. At least $325,000 is to be added to the Housing Trust Fund each year. This would ensure that the loan forgiveness and grant components do not eat into the principal and are thus sustained long into the future — to continue to benefit Duluth’s housing and quality of life.

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People make our economy work. People grow our tax base. A sustained Duluth Housing Trust Fund will enable people to build a life in Duluth. Support for the Duluth Housing Trust Fund is a wise investment in addressing this critically important issue.

Zack Filipovich is an elected At Large member of the Duluth City Council. Jill Keppers is executive director of the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority. And Pam Kramer is executive director of LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) Duluth.

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