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ND tops Census Bureau’s list of fastest housing development rates

North Dakota has developed new housing at the fastest rate in the nation for third year in a row, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s data released Thursday.

The state added 10,207 new housing units last year, a growth rate of 3.1 percent, a development North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple attributed to the economy.

“North Dakota’s strong economy is fueling development across the state, and that includes a major expansion of new housing for residents of all income levels,” Dalrymple said in a statement.

The governor said the state will continue to work with private industry to expand housing options, particularly in communities experiencing the most rapid growth — such as those in western North Dakota.

Williams County is developing housing at the fastest rate of all counties in the U.S. It added almost 2,000 new housing units between July 2012 and July 2013, growing by 15.6 percent.

Stark County wasn’t far behind, with more than 1,500 new units and a growth rate of 13.5 percent. Between 2010 and 2013, Stark County grew more than 20 percent.

Six other North Dakota counties made the Census Bureau’s list of top 100 in housing growth for the past year: Ward, Morton, Burleigh, Cass, McLean and Grand Forks.

Housing numbers haven’t necessarily translated into housing affordability, however.

The state’s Housing Incentive Fund plans to leverage $150 million in construction financing to build 922 housing units, 709 of which will be set aside for low-to-moderate income households and essential service providers in energy-impacted communities.

The Housing Finance Agency is just one of several state agencies working to provide affordable housing during the rapid growth.

“The need, the demand for our help is certainly high,” said Blake Strehlow, executive director of the Stark County Housing Authority. “The rent structure that (Housing and Urban Development) gives us is not keeping up with the rent market structure. It’s that gap that is causing us our problems.”

He said that with federal programs unable to meet high rents in North Dakota, the state has “gone to a different avenue” using HIF funds to finance new affordable housing, including Heritage Hills, a 55-plus community currently under construction and set to open in Dickinson this fall.

North Dakota has added about 22,000 new housing units over the past three years with no signs of slowing down.

“You’re trying to keep up with this snowball that’s getting bigger and bigger all the time,” Strehlow said.