Governor, attorney general visit Dickinson to dedicate, break ground on affordable housing projects
Local and state leaders gathered Wednesday in west Dickinson to dedicate one affordable housing apartment building and break ground on another geared toward the 55-plus crowd.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple cut the ribbon for Patterson Heights, an apartment building with an emphasis on housing essential employees like city and county workers, law enforcement and teachers.
Moments later, Dalrymple picked up a shovel, put on a hard hat and was joined by 11 other state and community leaders in breaking ground on Heritage Hills, an affordable living project for seniors. Beyond Shelter Inc., a Fargo-based affordable housing developer, is building both projects.
"I think you all know that we made a lot of great progress in the last couple years on affordable housing and we're going to keep doing that," Dalrymple said.
Patterson Heights' final price tag was $3.4 million, said Jolene Kline, acting director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. Her department contributed $2.1 million. Flex PACE funds were used through the Bank of North Dakota and Stark Development Corp. contributed the match for that program as well as smaller amounts from other organizations.
The projects were made possible by a once-experimental program that has grown with the need for affordable housing in the Oil Patch, Dalrymple said.
"Years ago, the only thing we really had in North Dakota was federal low-income housing tax credits," Dalrymple said. "Three years ago, it became clear that that was not doing the job for us in North Dakota."
The state partnered with the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and provided $3 million in tax credits three years ago, Dalrymple said. That was increased to $15 million the following year and the state allocated $35 million in this past biennium.
"This program has had a dynamic result," Dalrymple said. "We are bringing dozens and dozens of people into situations where they can afford the rent and now, with the help of the attorney general and with the help of Jolene's (Kline) program, we're able to target it to what we call essential workers."
Part of the funding came from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's office. As part of a settlement with banks over foreclosure practices, Stenehjem's office received $3 million to use on housing projects from a $25 billion national settlement.
"One of the key things that those of us in law enforcement have been having to contend with is recruiting and then retaining good-quality law enforcement officers, and they tell us that a constant problem that they have to deal with is affordable housing," Stenehjem said.
Beyond Shelter pushed for the projects but its first application to use federal money was initially denied, Kline said as a gust of wind greeted her at the podium.
"So they went back to the drawing board, did some reconfiguring of the project and were able to make it work with state dollars," Kline said.
The support at the state level helped make the project possible, said Lynn Fundingsland, CEO of Beyond Shelter.
"These projects could never happen without the local support," Fundingsland said.
The building wouldn't be livable without sewer and water hookups and other services, Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said.
"Along with all this construction comes quite a bit of infrastructure challenges and that's really what our city is dealing with right now -- those issues," Johnson said. "If you go back to last summer's construction season, this summer's construction season, and the one that is before us next year, we're slated to spend $162 million on infrastructure."
But the buildings are much needed, Johnson said.
"If you go back 10 years, a two-bedroom apartment in Dickinson probably rented for no more than $450 per month," Johnson said. "Today that's up around $1,900."