New program launched to improve Duluth's housing market

By KBJR News 1

May 13, 2014 Updated May 13, 2014 at 6:57 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)--- Today the housing and redevelopment Authority launched the Build Up Duluth program that is designed to promote home ownership, create new housing and increase home values.

In the last two years, Duluth has seen employment increase by 1400 jobs and in the next two years another increase of 1500 jobs is expected... this program is designed to help respond to the housing demand that new workforce is creating.

Following a housing summit in February, L–H–B Engineering in Duluth took a look at its own employees and the struggles they faced finding a place to live.

"What I learned is that it is extremely connected to our ability to keep people here. So we can have a great job and great opportunities here but if we don't have housing we're not going to be able to keep the people here or get them here to begin with," said Bill Bennett, CEO of LHB Engineering.

The company has been hiring like crazy, and has remained hopeful for a solution to affordable housing for young professionals in the area.
The Buildup Duluth Program might help.

"We're seeing job growth and that's terrific and we want to make sure able to provide the housing supply to meet the needs of the job growth,"said Rick Ball, Director of Duluth's Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The program will add incentives for home buyers...providing them with a vacant lot and up to 50 thousand dollars in loans that are forgivable after 10 years.

There is also an incentive for the redevelopment of multi–family homes...where the HRA will provide up to $10,000 per unit in cash towards the purchase and remodeling of older multifamily housing.

"We feel as though it's an opportunity for the housing authority to be able to respond to this housing demand and to step up and create some incentives for people to build their dream home and to be able to find what they want and help to revitalize the neighborhood and invest in the community all at the same time," said Ball.

With Duluth's housing vacancy rate sitting between 3 and 4 percent, the demand is also growing for low income housing.

"We need housing desperately ... We need housing for people that are in the workforce who are just starting out and earning minimum wage and that's where a lot of this type of housing would be geared," said Keith Hamre, Duluth's Community Development Mgr.

The Duluth City Council approved resolutions Monday night supporting the use of low–income housing tax credits for the Gateway Tower and Kozy apartments.

Written and posted to the web by Raeanna Marnati
rmarnati@kbjr.com