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Dickinson Press' Top 10: No. 7: Rents double, triple; housing construction industry taking off

The year 2012 was a year of much-increased housing starts in the state, with inspectors stretched to the limit trying to keep up.

There were 137 permits filed for single-family structures in Dickinson in all of 2011 and 255 building permits. In 2012, there is already 494 new building permits, with 418 of those for single-family structures.

Also breaking expectations were reports of the doubling and even tripling of rents in western North Dakota -- leaving many tenants frustrated and broke.

According to legal advocate Richard LeMay of North Dakota Legal Services, tenants have few options but to move out, but where are they going to move? That was the challenge in 2012, and may continue to be a challenge in 2013 and in years to come.

Lemay's office provides free legal advice to tenants who are senior citizens or have qualifying lower incomes.

Rent control is illegal in North Dakota, although there is an exemption if buildings receive government funds to construct the housing structures. The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency does what it can to fill in the gap for those forced from their homes due to skyrocketing rent hikes.

The Housing Incentive Fund does not receive any direct funding from the state. It relies solely on contributions from taxpayers. The individuals, businesses and financial institutions that contribute to the fund receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit in exchange. Contributions can be directed to a specific project or community.

"The need for quality, affordable housing is one of our state's biggest challenges right now," said Mike Anderson, NDHFA executive director. "By contributing to HIF, taxpayers can help address this need and also have a say in how their tax dollars are spent."

NDHFA is making a final push to fully capitalize HIF by the end of the year. The agency conditionally committed $15 million in HIF funding to 26 projects. Through about mid-December, the agency had received more than $12 million.

HIF projects in Crosby, Devils Lake, Killdeer, Kulm, Mandan, Parshall, Watford City and Williston are still in need of funds.

NDHFA is authorized to issue tax credit certificates to contributors on a first-come, first-serve basis until its $15 million maximum is reached. Contributions must be received by Dec. 31 to be claimed on 2012 tax returns. For more information, visit

Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed raising the amount the NDHFA receives this coming legislative session; the state Legislature would still need to approve such increases.

Editor's Note: This story is the fourth in a series of The Dickinson Press' top 10 stories of the year. Previously on the list was:

8: Dry conditions lead to months-long burn bans, wildfires

9: Property tax bill shot down, Heitkamp beats Berg in election

10: Controversy with Stark Co. Sheriff Clarence Tuhy