It is common knowledge that there is a critical need for affordable housing in Lake County. For anyone who attends the monthly city council meetings in Two Harbors or Silver Bay, or the Lake County Board of Commissioners meeting, the issue of affordable housing is always on the agenda. Often, there is interest by developers to purchase avail-able land along the North Shore for the construction of high end homes for those with enough cash for a snazzy lakefront abode, (in the neighborhood of $600,000). Recent examples include the failed Lighthouse Point development in Two Harbors and the Boat-house Bay development which will be under construction soon in Silver Bay.
While the economic health of North Shore communities can be enhanced by high end housing developments for the wealthy, it is affordable housing for working families that will bring more long term, sustainable economic stability to the area. The Lake County HRA met on September 13th to sharpen the focus on affordable housing at the county and city level.
Lake County acquired the Lakeview Apartments through tax forfeiture in 2019. Since then, much of the focus of the county HRA has been addressing the health, safety and overall rehabilitation needs of that facility. A site assessment study of Lakeview was completed in September of 2022 that identified over $1 million of critical rehabilitation work that needs to be done. New County HRA Director, Matthew Johnson, has put forth a resolution that commits the LCHRA to invest $79,400 in rehabilitation to Lakeview Apartments with matching funds in the like amount from the Northeast Minnesota Home Consortium Grant. These funds, totaling $158,800 will go for asbestos removal, making the facility ADA accessible, weather proofing for windows and doors, trimming trees on the property that are growing into power lines and upgrading the fire suppression system in the building.
Additionally, LCHRA and Two Harbors HRA are in the process of coordinating their respective efforts in support of work that the city’s HRA has initiated regarding the plan to have industrial arts students from the high school work with construction professionals to build wall frames that will be used in the construction of affordable homes. That project (known as “The High School Project”) is scheduled to begin in January.
On the State level, the Legislature has ad-dressed the funding needs for housing by allocating $1.313 billion in the last session. The increase in funding is designed to address the needs of Minnesotans across the state “while focusing on disparities, assisting lowest-income Minnesotans and serving underserved locations”. Specifics include state support for rental and homeownership, new construction and preservation projects, affordable housing / market-rate housing around the state, homelessness prevention, home ownership development and rental and downpayment assistance. This represents a major uptick in the State’s investment in the need for affordable housing
All of this requires the expenditure of a considerable amount of time and effort and there are people representing our communities who are continually working with State agencies to find money through grants and other funding sources to meet this critical need.
Do you happen to know who the folks are who are working to bring affordable housing to your area? In addition to Matthew Johnson, the Lake County HRA includes Board Chair Richard DeRosier, Tom Lovdhal, Susan Rosette, Robert Entzion and Paul Iverson. If you live in Two Harbors or in Silver Bay and you don’t know who your local HRA board members are, I encourage you to do the following.
#1. Visit your local Town Hall and find out who in your community is working to address this important issue.
#2. Support them. #3. Get involved. A civil society requires civic engagement.
As Lake County HRA Director Johnson said in a recent interview, “It’s going to take all of us to get this done”.