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Boreal Community Media

Group extends efforts to provide affordable housing in Duluth, up the North Shore

Sep 11, 2018 10:08AM ● By Editor
Site work is underway for four additional homes being built by One Roof in Grand Marais, Minn. --- Clint Austin / Forum News Service

By Peter Passi of the Forum News Service - September 9, 2018

DULUTH—You could say that Bob Ryan knows how to stretch a dollar.

Ryan, the CEO of Odyssey Resorts and Development Inc., recently contributed $50,000 to One Roof Community Housing, and that private investment helped the organization obtain another $720,000 from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

Those funds will be used to address a very real need for more affordable housing, both in Duluth and up the shore, where Odyssey operates Breezy Pointe, Larsmont Cottages, Grand Superior Lodge, Caribou Highlands Lodge and East Bay Suites.

Ryan said some of his own employees working at Odyssey's North Shore vacation properties have struggled to find affordable housing in the area.

"As more and more properties up there turn to vacation homes, it takes away housing stock for more affordable housing," Ryan explained.

"Housing needs are tremendous up the shore," he said, noting that many other employers are feeling the pinch, too.

Indeed, Mary Somnis, director of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority, said that a study group pulled together in 2015 "determined that the No. 1 challenge to economic prosperity here is the shortage of workforce housing."

After further analysis, Somnis said it was determined that Cook County would need to build 25 new homes per year for the next five years, plus add 75 rental units to the mix for a total of about 200 more residences, to meet the pent-up demand for workforce housing.

Somnis compared what is happening in Cook County to what occurred in Vail and Aspen, Colo., 20 years ago.

"We're very lucky that we live in this beautiful place where people want to be, but that has changed the real estate market here," she said, noting that many people of modest means have been priced out of the picture.

Somnis said matters are further complicated by the county's relatively slim supply of buildable land, with more than 90 percent of its property under public ownership and largely held in conservation.

In conjunction with state funds, Odyssey's contribution will be used to develop seven Community Land Trust homes in Grand Marais and eight more in Duluth.

For more on this story, follow this link to

To learn more about One Roof Community Housing, follow this link to their website.

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