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Housing study is OK'd

The Detroit Lakes Development Authority will be participating in a housing study, even though most, if not all, the information in the study will come from the city itself.

Sharing the cost of the $14,000 study with the Becker County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the DLDA will contribute up to $7,000 to find out the need for housing in Detroit Lakes.

Community Development Director Larry Remmen said he would like the study to also include price ranges for housing needed, inventory of vacant lots around town and suggested areas that would be best suited for multi-family units.

DLDA member and council alderman Bruce Imholte said that city staff can drive around the city and point to where multi-family housing should be located, and a simple phone call to the county would tell the city the vacant lot count, so he questioned the purpose of paying a consultant to tell the city the information it already has.

"It removes some of that emotion or bias" to have an outside source designate multi-family locations, DLDA member Tom Klyve said.

Remmen said that developers do ask for housing studies when they inquire about investing in Detroit Lakes. He said he can provide information, but having a study from a third party is what developers are looking for because any city staffer can say their town is the best and someone should invest in it.

"It doesn't carry the same weight as an independent study," he said of him supplying the information.

Klyve said that many banks won't accept the information from the city either when it comes time for a developer to get a loan. Instead, it needs to come from a third party study.

"They (developers) have been asking for it lately," Remmen said. "I think information would be beneficial right now and spur some development."

He said the last housing study was done about 2005 or 2006.

He said that those developers asking about the housing in Detroit Lakes "are not local but have done work here before. They all want solid information."

"At the end of the day," Imholte asked, "what's going to be the implantation plan?"

City Administrator Bob Louiseau suggested that besides just developers, the city should market the study to banks that are giving out the development loans and to business owners like Lakeshirts and SJE Rhombus, for example, to tell future -- or existing -- workers that there is potential housing in the area.

DLDA member Mary Beth Gilsdorf suggested maybe the city should ask these developers and banks if a new, updated study would be beneficial to them.

DLDA member and council alderman GL Tucker said that since the last study was done about seven years ago, and the cost is about $7,000 for the DLDA's portion, that's only about $1,000 a year and is worth the cost. He said it's similar to the process of the Detroit Mountain study that the DLDA also contributed money toward.

Even though everyone involved believed the mountain would be beneficial to the area, the group still needed to have a third party study done to market the project and seek funding.

Gilsdorf said she could support the study if it's actually utilized and the city pushes developers to follow it.

A motion to contribute up to $7,000 for the city's share passed unanimously.

Follow Pippi May-field on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.