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Dickinson rental availability nearly zero

The chances of getting an apartment in Dickinson are slim-to-none, and that's if people coming into the area can afford the rent, officials said Tuesday.

"Rents are sky high," said Michael Carbone, North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People Inc. "Minot, Williston, Bismarck and Dickinson represent communities where no one can rent regardless of their circumstance."

Cities should have 5 percent to 8 percent rent availability, Carbone said. Dickinson's availability last month was a half-percent.

In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair market value, residents in Stark County should make $13.10 an hour, according to a report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The mean renter hourly wage is $10.50.

The annual average yearly income for renters in Stark County is $24,627, and the amount a renter can afford on average is $616. Income needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment is $23,520, according to the NLIHC report.

Of the 1,783 people identified as homeless in North Dakota during the July 27 NDCHP point-in-time survey, 40 percent worked out of state and had come to work in the state. Only 25 percent said they could return to permanent housing.

"So many of those that have come have found themselves unsheltered and are basically stuck here," Carbone said.

More people are coming to the state in response to an oil boom in western North Dakota, said Sheila Crowley, NLIHC president and CEO.

"In an economy where people are having a very hard time finding jobs in other places, and they have the ability to pick and go to North Dakota, then people are going to go places where they can seem to find jobs, but obviously you have a mismatch between people and housing at this point," she said.

Carbone added that 84 percent of the extremely low-income households, or households making less than $20,000 a year, are paying housing costs greater than 50 percent of their income.

"They are at imminent risk of homelessness at any moment," he said. "Those are the folks that are paycheck to paycheck, and we know that is getting more and more difficult to handle."

Since renting space is not available in the western part of the state, housing vouchers cannot be used, Carbone said. Those vouchers "will be lost" if not used.

"At a time when we issue these housing vouchers, most of the time when are they in the most jeopardy of being lost because of inability to use them," he said.

The availability of housing in communities shows how "the housing crunch is spilling over across the state," Carbone said, adding people are not only coming unprepared but they are coming because there is no place to live.

"The state has done a great job of marketing itself as the land of opportunity, and I think it is for many people," he said. "I talk with these people every day with my job and some of them are angry. Some of them are frustrated. We need to be careful that we are not creating a false picture that all you need to do is show up."

Community members need to tell their local and state governments know that housing has become an issue, Carbone said.

"The vision of the Housing Alliance of North Dakota is to ensure everyone has access to decent safe, and affordable and accessible housing," HAND Project Director Tom Alexander said.

[b]Rent Availability[/b]

Williston: 0 percent

Minot: 0 percent

Dickinson: 0.5 percent

Bismarck: 1 percent

Fargo: 3.8 percent

Grand Forks: 8.4 percent