County approves $700,000 to HRA for local housing projects
Joe Friedrichs

County approves $700,000 to HRA for local housing projects

A number of housing projects across the community received a boost today from county officials.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved $700,000 in assistance during their meeting today to help the Cook County Housing and Redevelopment Authority with current and proposed housing projects. Funding for the proposed project came to the county through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

This funding can be used for a broad range of local government activities with the exception of lobbying. To date, discussion about the use of the funds by county officials have focused on implementing the capital improvement plan for county buildings and addressing the county’s shortage of housing.

The $700,000 that was approved today by the county board for the HRA will go toward building new housing units in Grand Marais and possibly other pockets of the community. Funding could also be directed toward the Birchwood Apartments in Grand Marais. WTIP recently reported on the challenging living conditions at Birchwood, a federally subsidized housing unit in Grand Marias. HRA Director Jason Hale said Tuesday it is possible One Roof Housing in Duluth could be taking on an ownership and management role at Birchwood, though discussion with current Birchwood ownership is in a preliminary phase, Hale said.

“We do not know how much, if any, of the ARPA funds will be used to assist with Birchwood,” Hale told WTIP after the county commissioner meeting. “My point to the county board was that we know that there are significant needs at that property and that we want to be able to support the much needed rehab work to come. Having funds available to assist once the property changes hands could be crucial.”

Meanwhile, to support the ARPA money, the HRA is also pursuing funding assistance from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to support housing projects in Cook County, Hale said during the county commissioner meeting. The ARPA funding will be used “to leverage other funding to build more housing,” Hale told WTIP.

The housing discussion during Tuesday’s meeting is the latest in a string of news items and action the HRA is taking to address the local housing crunch. Last month, the Grand Marais City Council unanimously approved a resolution to transfer property to the HRA for the housing project. The project would consist of a 50-unit apartment complex below the Gunflint Trail water tower in Grand Marais.

The city of Grand Marais sold the property to the HRA for $1. The tentative name of the anticipated housing development is Sawtooth Flats.

The audio clip below is from the Feb. 14 meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. It includes Hale describing how the ARPA funding can be used locally. Also heard in this clip is Cook County Commissioner Deb White speaking about the situation at the Birchwood Apartment complex in Grand Marais.