BEMIDJI -- Members of the Bemidji Economic Development Authority were recently given a beta version of a housing study compiled by city Community Development Director Steve Jones.

During a meeting Monday, Jones shared several housing statistics with the BEDA, which he said helps both his office and the city in making economic development decisions. According to Jones, the study will become more in depth over the next several months.

"It's not a full fledged study yet. This will continue to change as we get more information," Jones said. "I met with the landlord association and asked them to do a survey, and I'll hopefully work with the Northwest Indian Community Development Center for a survey. I'll get that information and incorporate it. We also have a census coming up, so in 18 months, we'll have much better data."

Details included in the study showed that Bemidji had 5,983 households, with 2,997 of them being family households and 2,986 being multi-family households. According to the data, there are 2.13 persons per household.

The study also showed the percentage of owner occupied homes in Bemidji come to 45.1%, coming in under the state average of 71.6%. For those renting in the city, the average cost is $764, while the state average is $944.

Also included in the study was a breakdown showing 37.9% of people in Bemidji who rent have incomes above the poverty line while the other 76.7% have incomes below the poverty line.

In her remarks at the meeting, Mayor Rita Albrecht said future additions to the study should include affordable housing details.

"When Nate (Mathews, City Manager) and I were at the CDC and had a discussion, housing was one of the top of the list things that folks talked about. The ability to find housing that is affordable," Albrecht said.

The study on housing comes at a time when Bemidji's population is set to increase rather quickly. In 2019, the population was estimated at 15,474. This year, with the city annexing a section of Northern Township, the population is expected to increase by 550. According to the study, with the annexation and population growth of 0.007% per year, the number of residents could reach 16,473 in 2023.

Though new housing has been added to the city over the last few years. Jones' study showed 127 single family homes had been built from 2015-2019, while 347 multi-family housing spaces had been developed.

When adding the numbers together, and subtracting the 33 housing units demolished over the same time span, the city had a net gain of 441 housing units.

Along with housing, Jones told the BEDA Monday that he intends to do a similar study on businesses by way of a survey. The survey is expected to do the following:

  • Gauge the workforce needs of local businesses.
  • Identify companies that are planning expansions or undergoing contractions and offer assistance.
  • Create an open dialogue between businesses and the BEDA.

"The intent is, I want to get out and talk to more people," Jones said. "This is in some ways my entry into that. I think this is good information for us to have."