MPR News with Angela Davis

Rural Voice: The urgent need for affordable housing in rural communities

a woman interviews a man
Affordable housing was the topic of the second Rural Voice conversation, hosted by MPR News host Kerri Miller in Two Harbors, Minn., in September.
Courtesy of Kelly Smith

If there’s a through line when it comes to issues that challenge rural communities, it’s housing. Without affordable housing, you can’t attract a vibrant workforce, support entrepreneurs, keep young families in the area or nourish the deep community roots seniors have planted.

Last month, MPR News host Kerri Miller took the issue of affordable housing to Two Harbors, Minn., where she facilitated a town hall discussion about how to creatively solve this bottleneck for rural communities.

Community leaders, business owners and North Shore residents talked about the reality of housing costs today and shared what it’s like to hunt for a home you can afford in the city where you work.

They also brainstormed and debated imaginative solutions. How could zoning changes encourage more buildings? How do you work with longtime home owners to overcome NIMBYism? How do you encourage developers to invest in low-income housing? And what are the ethics of some Minnesotans owning a second home in a region where many residents can’t afford one?

This is part two in a four-part series featuring conversations from the Rural Voice project — a series of town halls hosted by Miller in communities across the Upper Midwest about the rewards and challenges of making a home in rural America. The first discussion, hosted in New Ulm, Minn., focused on how to support rural entrepreneurship.