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Four proposed apartment building projects are seeking support from the city council

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There may be more options for affordable housing on the way in Duluth.

According to Duluth's director of planning and construction services, four proposed apartment building projects are seeking support from the city council Monday night.

They include a 53-unit development near Whole Foods Co-op, a 42-unit development off Decker Road, a 54-unit proposal within the Board of Trade Building downtown, and the revamping of the old St. Louis County Jail along Second Street bringing in 31 units.

According to a recent housing needs study an additional 4,400 units were needed back in 2014 to alleviate Duluth's crisis.

"We are still running behind on affordable rental units," says Executive Director of Duluth Housing and Development Authority Jill Keppers. 

A shortage of 3,300 units to be exact, according to the study. 

"I think it's going to take some creativity to solve some of those challenges,"  says Planning and Construction Services Director, Keith Hamre.

Hamre says these projects could not only alleviate the housing crisis, but breathe life into Duluth's historic buildings - as would be the case with the proposed development of the old St. Louis County Jail.

"They looked at a couple of other uses prior to that. That didn't work for the site. It's been about seven to eight years, [and] they have been working at trying to develop the jail site," Hamre said. 

The proposals are seeking low-income housing tax credits to help fund development costs. 

"The housing tax credit projects are affordable by the requirements by the IRS rules, and so... four percent could be mixed income. But the nine percent are pretty much generally all affordable," Hamre said. 

But officials say there will be statewide competition especially for the nine percent tax credits. 

"The nine percent tax credit is a great tool one of our only tools to do affordable housing development," Keppers said. 

Officials say city council approval on a housing proposal is highly recommended before applying for tax credits through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. 

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