David's Blog

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Duluth Housing 1000

Duluthians are fortunate to live in a dramatically beautiful city: a storybook Emerald City on the hill. At the foot of our beloved city are the rugged shores of the greatest of the Great Lakes. Beyond our city borders is the edge of a wilderness that serves as our playground for an endless panorama of activities.

Yet, there is still work to be done. Duluth can become an even more vibrant and compelling place to live, attracting additional individuals and families, if we can find a way to provide adequate housing options for our community members.

Our community’s lack of housing is becoming an increasing cause for concern as people choose to purchase homes in markets that offer more housing choices and more attractive prices – markets that exist in neighboring communities and elsewhere in the state and nation. Providing more housing options is paramount to Duluth’s future success.

People need jobs and homes if they are to remain in a community. It is that simple. If we, as a community, cannot provide these jobs and homes, people will inevitably relocate to where they can find them. The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce understands this reality. We embrace the challenge of working to bring more jobs and more housing options to our community.

For this reason, the Chamber’s leadership recently agreed to advocate for a bold new housing initiative: Duluth Housing 1000. The goal of this initiative is to facilitate an increase in Duluth’s housing unit construction rate from its historic rate of a net gain of 100 new units a year to 200 units a year (1000 units in five years). That does not mean, of course, that we can build only those 200 new units. Each year, many old and otherwise uninhabitable housing units are torn down or taken off the market, and we must compensate for this additional loss as well. We would do well to consider the fact that without significant maintenance, the average lifespan of a house is approximately 50 years, and almost half of Duluth’s present housing structures are over 60 years old.

Necessary private, state and federal resources are available to build the additional housing units we seek. However, our community itself must first generate funding to qualify for the attractive private, state, and federal monies. The Duluth Housing 1000 collaboration leaders are requesting the Duluth City Council’s approval of a proposal to access the Community Investment Trust – also known as the Fond-du-Luth Casino revenue and the Street Improvement Fund – in the amount of $600,000 each year for five years. This $600,000 has the potential to attract fifteen times that amount in private, state and federal monies to build housing units in Duluth each year.

Accessing the Community Investment Trust, for other than the street improvement program, may be a hotly contested initiative. Yet, the Chamber believes doing so will bring the greater benefit to our city. I encourage all citizens to follow this issue as it is decided upon by the City Council. The Duluth Housing 1000 proposal will be voted on by the City Council Monday, April 25, at 6:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

posted by David Ross at

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