Throughout my years at the agency, I’ve learned that when communities advocate for themselves, the outcome can be dynamic. This month I participated in three community events where organized and passionate stakeholders, focused on long-term goals, achieved their vision for diversified housing. It is exciting to be a part of their vision during the development phase and to celebrate their successes at major milestones.
LaGrave on First in Grand Forks is a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) project that will house 42 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness utilizing the ‘Housing First’ model where the individuals are rapidly housed and then offered services to address the issues causing their homelessness. After years of planning, six funding streams and strong community support, LaGrave on First opened its doors this month.
Another Housing First project, Edwinton Apartments in Bismarck, broke ground in August. It will create 40 new PSH units and be operational by the fall of 2019. The project is located within an Opportunity Zone that was designated by Gov. Burgum earlier this year.
We know that chronically homeless individuals cost communities $30,000 to $50,000 every year. Providing these individuals with immediate access to housing is estimated to save a community up to 40 percent of the total cost. Having a home is so important as the foundation for a new life where individuals can feel safe and begin their personal journey to stability and recovery. LaGrave and Edwinton are modeled after the Cooper House, North Dakota’s a Housing First project which opened in Fargo in 2010. After seeing Fargo’s success, other communities have a viable, working template to customize to fit within the parameters of their own needs.
Minot’s Park South Apartments, built in 1948 as a convent and converted to apartments in the 1980s, now offers 40 renovated housing units, 30 are deemed affordable. This project is a significant milestone for Minot for many reasons. In 2016, the city applied for and was awarded one of 13 National Disaster Resilience (NDR) grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development totaling $74.3 million. The city designated $21 million of their award for affordable multifamily housing. Park South is one of the first NDR completed projects in the nation and fills a critical affordable housing gap in the community. The project also received $2.23 million from NDHFA’s Housing Incentive Fund which was made possible by financial contributions from local banks, businesses and individuals in exchange for $2.23 million in state income tax credits.
Further west in the state, the Williston/Watford City areas are once again dealing with housing shortages which is also a workforce recruitment issue. In April, conversations began about how NDHFA’s Construction Loan Guarantee program could be leveraged to alleviate the pressure on this housing market. After analyzing the potential impact and discussions with multiple community stakeholders, the program has been modified. It can now provide up to $500,000 in guarantees per community or per contractor. Initially, it was designed to no more than five guarantees per community and three per contractor. This change will allow lenders to work with builders to determine the best balance between construction costs and local demand, taking advantage when possible of the economies of scale that come with building multiple homes in one location at one time. We are interested to see how communities benefit from the program change.
NDHFA’s mission is to make housing affordable for all North Dakotans, making the agency a stakeholder in every urban and rural community across the state. Together with these communities, private industry, nonprofits, faith-based entities and government agencies, we are making progress.