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Statement on proposed public financing of luxury apartments

Duluth is one of the least affordable places in Minnesota to find housing. A minimum wage earner has to work 64 hours a week to afford an average one bedroom apartment here. Thousands of people pay more for housing than a they can realistically afford. Over 800 households are on a priority waiting list for housing because they are currently homeless. This is nothing short of a crisis for many of our neighbors, family members and friends. The social and economic consequences of housing insecurity and neighborhood instability affect us all.

Recently, the Duluth Planning Commission and the Duluth Economic Development Authority gave their support to $6.2 million in public financing to a Madison-based developer for a 14-story apartment complex to be built downtown. There is no requirement that any of the units in this new building be affordable to regular Duluthians. Monthly rent is projected to run from $1325 for a studio to nearly $3,000 for a two bedroom.

The city should not give handouts to for-profit developers without a clear public benefit. Right now our greatest public need is housing for low- and moderate-income people. It doesn’t move Duluth forward to build hundreds of units of housing that are only affordable to doctors in the nearby Essentia campus. We need housing that is also affordable to nurses, janitors and employees of the grocery store proposed for the complex.

Duluth leaders have been talking about the affordable housing crisis for years. It’s time we stop talking and start taking action to make a change.

We ask the Duluth City Council to table a vote on the TIF (tax increment financing) district for this new development and send it back to DEDA and the Community Development Division to work out a better deal for Duluth taxpayers that includes a plan for long-term affordability. We further ask that any future housing projects receiving public financing be required to include housing that is affordable to low-income people. This is a small step and it is a fair ask of any developer that wants public financing for their private gain. If this TIF district is approved - with or without greater affordability - we ask the city make an similar investment in affordable housing. This is the least we can do to turn the tide and create a Duluth that works for everyone.

Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Coalition

Loaves and Fishes Community

American Indian Community Housing Organization

Duluth Chapter NAACP

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