Affordable and accessible rentals planned in Duluth.


Byline: William Morris

Finding housing on a very low income is hard. So is finding housing designed for people with disabilities. For people who need both, it can be nearly impossible.

These are the renters St. Paul-based Accessible Space Inc., or ASI, is targeting with its latest project in Duluth. The nonprofit developer plans to build a 76-unit affordable apartment building on the city's west side optimized for residents in wheelchairs or with other mobility or sensory challenges.

The Van's Apartments project would be built on city-owned land north of Wadena Street, between 52nd and 53rd Avenues, a three-acre parcel that Duluth's Housing and Redevelopment Authority has cleared of homes for new construction. It's a part of the city that has not seen much development in recent years, said John Sullivan, real estate development manager for the nonprofit, but the project aims to meet an unmet need for the entire community.

"There's a strong need all over the place for affordable housing in Duluth," Sullivan said in an interview. "Duluth is a fairly tied-in market. If there's a demand there, if there's a good site in west Duluth or up north by the Miller Hill Mall, if it's a good site it'll work.

ASI envisions a three-story building with more than half of the units reserved for renters making less than 30 percent of the area median income, with the rest targeted for renters making less than 50 percent. A quarter of the units will be designed as Type A accessible apartments, with roll-in showers, lower kitchen surfaces, grab bars and other features for residents who need them.

The $18 million project will be funded through a range of local and state sources, with the lion's share being the $12.5 million ASI hopes to collect through syndication of low-income housing tax credits supplied by Minnesota Housing. The project is waiting for those credits, which are assigned through a competitive process, to be announced in the fall. If it receives the credits, it will move into full...

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