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Editorial: Momentum for proposed Ely housing project is both real and welcome

Ely Echo - Staff Photo - Create Article

Ely leaders can be forgiven if they’ve felt a bit like the famed cartoon character Charlie Brown the last few years - at least when it has come to putting together a badly-needed housing project.

It has seemed like whenever progress was made in one area or another, there was Charlie’s arch-nemesis Lucy to pull the football away just when Charlie was about to proceed and succeed.

But the dark clouds appear to be subsiding and Lucy is nowhere in sight this week as plans for a 37-unit apartment complex near the hospital campus take further root in Ely.

After first finding a developer willing to take on the project, the city got more good news this week in the form of an $850,000 grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

The IRRRB money is but one piece in a funding puzzle that will reach better than $8 million when all is said and done, but it’s a pivotal one.

Clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski cautioned this week that the numbers are so tight that other funding sources are critical to moving the project forward.

The bright side is that now, perhaps more than ever, there’s keen awareness that a lack of affordable housing is a serious roadblock in efforts to sustain and grow the local economy.

When prospective employees can’t find acceptable and affordable housing in town, the odds of them taking a job here plummet.

Local officials have heard the real-life struggles of area employers and a housing study bears out that there’s significant demand for more housing in town.

Like child care, housing is an obstacle that must be overcome not only to attract new workers, but to keep employees who are already here.

There’s a process yet in front of us - with decisions on state funding looming yet this summer followed by construction in 2025 and occupancy by 2026.

But for the first time in a long time, it appears there’s real momentum for a housing project in Ely. Now let’s keep Lucy away from Charlie Brown.

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