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WTIP Housing Series: The Long-Term Rental Crunch

Cook County line. Submitted photo

Joe Friedrichs

This series focuses on the local workforce housing crunch facing Cook County. It shares anecdotes of the struggles people face when trying to find a long-term rental in the county, a comparison of the local market with other tourist destinations across the United States, and possible solutions to the local issues involved with finding a house to rent or own in Cook County.

For this series, WTIP interviewed more than a dozen community leaders, elected officials, individuals involved with local real estate and people looking to rent a house in Cook County. 

Their stories are shared in three produced features and a "Community Conversations" program that aired live in June 2018.

Support for this series comes from the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

What's On:
Wildersmith Let it Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 26

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by      Fred Smith
February 26, 2021    

This weekend is a beginning to the end ofwinter under the watch of the Ojibwe “Sucker” moon (Namebini Giizis). While we could be “suckered’ into believing the cold season is over, the coming of March is a sure signal, most of the worst is in our rear view mirror.                         

What might be left to come is likely to be of short duration. As a result, I’m betting some north woods gardeners are starting seeds indoors. March is within hours of taking the baton on the third leg of this 2021 marathon. February is a short month, but WOW, where did it go?                           

March conveys announcement of spring through even more noticeable longer minutes of daylight. This occurs in concert with the man-made manipulation of time. It’s hard to believe we are but two weeks away from the “spring ahead” nonsense on the fourteenth!                                                                                                                                                           
Our long bitter spell of month two was finally broken along the Trail on Wednesday the seventeenth. The temperature finally eased above the zero mark along the Mile O Pine about four o’clock in the afternoon. The final count of consecutive hours below zero during our thirteen day frozen journey was two hundred eighty-eight. It’s a new record in my weather data collection.                                                                                                                                

Meanwhile, since the mercury eased upwards, the near warmth almost seems to have a Vernal scent in the air. By near warmth, it’s defined in the twenties and low thirties around this place.                                                                                                                                                          
While north woods residential heating units are getting a break and vehicles are starting easier, and with better frequency, delivery of snow to the upper Gunflint remains lost on a distant jet stream. A skiff here and there has refreshed the landscape so to speak, but has done nothing to squelch the seemingly endless drought along the International border. An air mail consignment would sure be appreciated.                                                                                                    

Added to the human elation of more moderate temps, birds are flitting about the feeders with more enthusiasm and the four legged critters have a little more zip in their steps to our deck side fast food stand.                                                                                                                        

While this neighborhood has not had a substantial snow since before Christmas, it’s not to say we don’t have snow on the ground. There is enough to provide excellent conditions for cross country ski enthusiasts.                                                                                                  
I’ve heard report from some in promotion of this snow business activity, that this is the best year in recorded history for their winter vacation facilities. This is great news and hope they can maintain the season a couple more months.                                                                        

At the same time, snow mobile trails could support a good dose of fluff to improve rough conditions for sledding folk. Nevertheless, many are making the best of bumpy riding.                

Being pretty much quarantined by bitter cold recently, I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up on some reading. Catching my attention was an article in January edition of The SUN magazine.                                                                                                                                                   
Whether listeners are proponents or opponents of wolves and their protections or management, I found it to be worthy reading for members of both groups. Entitled, THE HOWLING WILDERNESS, the biologist author tells the truth about wolves, wondering if anyone is listening.                                                                                                                                           

Since residents of the area, and visitors to this territory, share wilderness with these iconic animals, I recommend it for reading on a late winter night. Check it out at a library or find it at a newsstand.                                                                                                                                 

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, knowing March can have a good feeling to it.


Vacation rentals are common on the North Shore. Photo by Joe Friedrichs

A lack of long-term rentals in Cook County - A Community Conversation

It can be a challenge to find a long-term rental option to house residents of Grand Marais and Cook County. It’s an issue that impacts local families and individuals, employers and people who would like to call this beautiful part of the North Shore their home.

There are many reasons why this challenge exists in Cook County, and during this Community Conversations program that aired lived June 7, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs speaks with a panel of local residents, an elected official and property owners in Cook County about various issues on the local level regarding a lack of long-term rentals.  
Included on the panel were:

• Cook County Assessor Todd Smith

• Cook County Commissioner and a member of the county’s Vacation Rental Committee, Heidi Doo-Kirk

• Sophie Wyatt, who is a new resident of Cook County and, along with her husband Kyle, recently went through the process of trying to find a long-term rental in the community

• Steve Surbaugh from Cascade Vacation Rentals, a property management company in Cook County that specializes in short-term, or vacation rentals


A workforce housing project in Grand Marais nears completion

WTIP Housing Series: Part three, solutions to the problem

This is part three of an in-depth report on the local housing market titled: ‘WTIP Housing Series: The Long-Term Rental Crunch.’

In this episode, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs finds what local residents, businesses and community leaders are doing to address a lack of workforce housing. A number of businesses in Cook County are exploring ways to find housing for their employees. From resorts on the North Shore to the Grand Marais Family Dentistry, a number of innovative ideas are coming forward from the local business community. 


Resort communities in Colorado are also facing a workforce housing crunch. Photo by Maggie Friedrichs

Housing Series: Part two, long-term rentals lacking in tourist destinations

This is part two of an in-depth report on the local housing market titled: ‘WTIP Housing Series: The Long-Term Rental Crunch.’

In this episode, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs compares the lack of workforce housing in Cook County with situations facing other tourism-based economies in rural communities across the country.

The rise of vacation rentals is a becoming a talking point in rural areas where tourists often seek outdoor adventure. Learn what this means for people looking to rent long-term in the communities where they work and live. 


Sophie and Kyle Wyatt

WTIP Housing Series: Part one, the journey of finding a long-term rental

This is part one of an in-depth report on the local housing market titled: ‘WTIP Housing Series: The Long-Term Rental Crunch.’

In this episode, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs follows the effort of Sophie and Kyle Wyatt as they try to move from a St. Paul apartment to a home in Cook County.

The couple had long dreamed of living on the North Shore, so they found work that will allow them to live here. All they needed next was a place to live. And as is the case for many who have aspirations to move to Cook County, this is where things got difficult.