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Housing Incentive Fund limit within sight

The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency gave almost $5.46 million to eight projects in the last round of grants, and money from the $15 million Housing Incentive Fund could soon run out, officials said earlier this week.

Seven projects applied for HIF for the June 30 round. If all are approved, the NDHFA will have committed almost all its funds it could allocate under the North Dakota Legislature, NDHFA Executive Director Michael Anderson said.

The agency has received $6.8 million in contributions for the dollar-for-dollar tax credits but hasn't denied any applications, Anderson added.

"At this point, we have been able to solicit enough projects to fully fund the program," he said. "Now we are still trying to collect contributions into the Housing Incentive Fund so that we can give them the money to go to work."

The agency gave funds to 20 projects; most recently Fargo-based Beyond Shelter Inc., which got more than $1.21 million for Patterson Heights in Dickinson. The 24-unit project is slated at $3.03 million.

Alan and Kris Fehr, owners of AK Investments LLP, received $410,852 to turn the former Jerry's Furniture building in Dickinson on 161 S. Main St. into a 10-unit apartment, which should cost about $1.4 million to complete by fall, Kris Fehr said.

Stark Development Corp. in Dickinson also gave $2,500 for each affordable unit, and the City Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday recommended the Fehrs receive a full exemption on property taxes for five years. Kris Fehr said she and her husband pay $800 a year for property taxes.

Lutheran Social Services Housing Inc. will take $936,264 on The Landing project in Bowman. The 24-unit development should cost about $3.12 million.

The projects are highly needed due to an oil boom in western North Dakota, officials said.

"I get a lot of calls from people that can't afford housing or they are looking for housing," Kris Fehr said. "They're desperate, and the stories just break your heart."

The funds are available to all North Dakota low-income housing projects, but Anderson said there is a priority in western North Dakota.

"This isn't going to solve ... the affordable housing shortage out there, but it is going to be helpful," Anderson said.

State Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, who co-sponsored the HIF bill, is glad people are using the funds.

"It has turned out to be more successful than I ever imagined," he said, adding he could have never foreseen the need for affordable housing.

The Legislature may double the amount for affordable housing projects next session, he added.

"People have to have a place to live," he said.

Taxpayers can contribute to the fund until Dec. 31 or until the $15 million mark is met.