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Friday, May 24, 2024
HomeUncategorizedArea Officials and Residents Gather for Rural Housing Town Hall

Area Officials and Residents Gather for Rural Housing Town Hall

The old saying goes that “two heads are better than one”. In reality, multiple heads are way better than two. Solving the problem of a lack of affordable housing that communities across the state of Minnesota are facing is going to require the efforts of a broad coalition of concerned citizens, human services organizations, and elected representatives.

The Rural Housing Town Hall, held earlier this month at Castle Danger Brewery, was a gathering of state and local officials, agency leaders and concerned residents, both young and old. The Town Hall was organized by Kitty Mayo of the Lake County Press and was moderated by Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio. The gathering provided the opportunity for folks to meet and talk about their personal concerns and experiences around finding an affordable place to live. It also gave agency leaders from a number of city and county Housing and Redevelopment Authority groups to talk about issues that exist in their specific jurisdictions and about possible ways to meet the need for affordable housing.

Minnesota’s North Shore has been called “the Malibu of the midwest”. 30 years ago, it was possible to move here, buy a piece of property and build a home. This is very often no longer the case. What has become common is that people with ready cash can easily score available housing out from under people who are less financially privileged. The lack of ability to find housing is forcing people who want to live and work in this part of the state to leave. Senior citizens and retirees are also feeling the pinch with increasing rent prices and property taxes. While no one wants to begrudge the wealthy the opportunity to buy land and build houses in the area, it is necessary to consider how communities address the needs for housing so that area businesses can attract workers. It is fine to have fancy vacation homes in the area, but what con-tributes more to the long term economic and social stability of our communities? If there isn’t housing available for workers and their families, what happens to area businesses? What happens to area schools? What happens to public access to healthcare and public services like police and fire protection?

Though resolving the issue is complicated, the energy generated at the Town Hall was very up-beat and a number of ideas were presented that could help address the need. The cities of Two Harbors and Silver Bay have both taken steps to limit the number of vacation rental properties that they will allow. Both cities are working to develop rental housing for senior citizens and working families. Job creation is not the issue. Affordable housing is. Two Harbors City Planner Justin Otsea pointed out that “we have spent 20 years not building homes.” A number of local elected officials expressed a new appreciation for both the complexity of the issue and the ideas that were put forth as possible solutions. The take away from the Town Hall is that though there is much work to do, there is good reason to believe that North Shore communities can collaborate on creating systems so that everyone can win when it comes to having access to affordable housing.

The Rural Voices Town Hall will be broadcast on MPR at a date as yet to be decided. Two Harbors Media was on hand to videotape the event so interested residents can listen to the proceedings by visiting the KTWH youtube channel.

Rick Evans
Rick Evans
My wife, Marsha Kinzer (a proud DEHS Greyhound, class of ‘77) introduced me to the North Shore on vacation in 2012. It became our regular escape when the stress of our careers in education became overwhelming, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breathtaking scenery, the nice people, and “salad” containing Jell-o and marshmallows. So you can either blame or thank my loving wife for my being here, because when we needed to choose a retirement hometown, Marsha advocated hard for her beloved Duluth, and here we are, six months later. Yes, this will be my first northern Minnesota winter. Yes, I welcome thoughts and prayers. Government, public policy, and social justice weighed heavily in the curriculums I taught at the high school level over a thirty-eight year career. In addition, we were a laboratory school focused on critical thinking in conjunction with technical and scientific writing. So when I found myself adrift on the great ocean of retirement and spied a raft, I jumped at the chance to take up what I’d left behind…minus the bad teachers’ lounge coffee. My position at the NSJ allows me to combine my passions for government and writing, and it’s helping me to feel less out of touch in new surroundings. When I’m not being “Cubby” (Marsha’s favorite new nickname for this green reporter) I enjoy pointing at eagles and saying, “Look, honey. There’s an eagle.” I’ve had an active side hustle as a professional musician for almost as many years as Charlie Parr. As a guitarist/singer/songwriter, I graced the stages of clubs and festivals around southern Wisconsin, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Should I even mention A Prairie Home Companion, or am I the only one here old enough to remember what that is? Look! An eagle!
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