The front-page article concerning lost rental units due to Essentia's planned expansion caught my attention. (“‘Nowhere to move to:’ Duluth residents face tight housing market as Essentia buys their homes, plans parking ramp,” Oct. 6) I realize that close parking for patients who often aren't very mobile is important, but wouldn't a good corporate partner provide replacement low-income housing for these displaced tenants?
It should be obvious by now that the housing market in Duluth isn't going to jump at replacing this type of housing on its own. Couldn't Essentia find money in an $800 million construction plan to replace these units that are being lost along with rentals for families of long-term patients?
I also find the city of Duluth's response to this situation rather ironic. There is a lot of talk from elected city officials about ending the housing shortage and going green, yet I see the city siding with a large business entity to eliminate 19 low-income rental units to make room for a parking ramp. Think about that for a minute. The mayor's response was that it will work out eventually, apparently after these tenants suffer displacement and uncertainty. My question: Why wait until then and hope it works out? Why not be proactive and demand a net gain in housing from this medical-district expansion instead of a net loss? After all, the people of Duluth are being asked to finance infrastructure for this project.
The city needs to do more if it ever wants to make a dent in the housing shortage.