A Roadmap Toward Affordable Housing in Duluth

It’s no secret: Duluth faces a genuine shortage of affordable housing. To begin addressing this challenge, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson convened the twelve-member Mayor’s Housing Task Force (MHTF) in 2019. Its membership included participants from a variety of sectors, all of which are affected by the lack of affordable housing in Duluth: while some provide direct housing-related services to area residents, others were in sectors such as finance and construction that are essential to housing development, and several major employers who need housing for their employees also participated. Northspan President Elissa Hansen co-facilitated the task force alongside Northland Foundation President Tony Sertich, a Northspan board member.

The MHTF met seven times between September 2019 and March 2020 to seek achievable, cost-effective ideas that can help make housing in Duluth more affordable for residents earing $50,000 or less a year, a figure that represents approximately 50% of Duluth’s households. Over the course of these meetings, city staff educated stakeholders about the scope of the problem and participants generated 27 ideas on potential revenue sources. The facilitators guided the task force as it narrowed its ideas down to six that task force members believed the city could pursue to address its shortage. These ideas require further vetting beyond the scope of the task force, require community dialogue, and alone cannot address all the dynamics that drive Duluth’s housing affordable shortage. However, they provide a starting point for future policy conversations.

Northspan compiled the final report for the task force, which is available here. For questions about the process or to see how Northspan can facilitate a similar dialogue in your community, contact Elissa Hansen at ehansen@northspan.org.