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Southwestern N.D. counties, communities to participate in housing study

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Southwestern N.D. counties, communities to participate in housing study
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

DICKINSON - Seven counties and 23 communities in southwestern North Dakota will be participating in a housing study.

The study will be conducted by Hanna:Keelan, a Nebraska-based community research and planning firm, which finished a study of Bowman County's housing needs early this year.

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Tim Keelan, principal founder of Hanna:Keelan, said he thinks the study is going to be a step in the right direction for southwestern North Dakota.

"Even though we're doing it as a regional study, we're going to look at each of these communities on an individual basis," Keelan said. "This regional concept is really going to work out for them economically."

The counties involved in the study will be; Adams, Billings, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark. The communities are; Amidon, Beach, Belfield, Dodge, Dunn Center, Fairfield, Fryburg, Gladstone, Golva, Halliday, Hettinger, Killdeer, Manning, Marmarth, Medora, Mott, New England, Reeder, Regent, Richardton, Sentinel Butte, South Heart and Taylor.

Deb Walworth, executive director of Prairie West Development in Beach, said the idea for housing studies originated a few years ago at a conference she attended.

Walworth learned at a conference that the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency would provide funding for up to 50 percent of a housing study. She took the information back to Southwest Developers, a group of economic development directors in the southwest North Dakota, and they liked the idea.

"We've all been discussing what we can do for housing," Walworth said. "We didn't know it at the time, but it's a problem that has been occurring all over the state."

The developers discussed it among the group, but they were unsure of where they would get funding from. Walworth said they decided as a group that getting together as a region would be the most cost effective way of completing a study.

"We thought that if we pooled our resources it would be helpful," Walworth said. "...Stark Development really got the ball rolling when they offered to pay $15,000 for a regional study."

Helping administer the study is the Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council out of Dickinson. Gene Buresh, community development coordinator for R-CRC said the R-CRC's roll in the study will be as a facilitator and conduit for funding.

"What our hope is, is that the study will provide us with information on the true hosing demand in the region," Buresh said. "Whether or not there is a continued need for additional housing."

Excluded from the study is Bowman County, which Hanna:Keelan conducted a study of in 2007, the results of which were made public early this year. Dickinson will also be excluded from the study.

Hanna:Keelan was chosen to oversee the study from a pool of interested parties by the Southwest Developers because of their experience with smaller regional communities and firsthand experience in North Dakota.

"We got a chance to see their Bowman County study, we know they had done a study in the Black Hills and that they were very happy with their study," Walworth said. "In the southwest (North Dakota), what affects one county seems to have an impact on the other counties. We're all really connected out here, so we just though it would be better to compare apples to apples."

Walworth said Hanna:Keelan hopes to start the study in June or July and have the study done by the end of the year. The cost of the study will be $48,000, half of which will be paid for by the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. The remainder will be covered by the $15,000 from Stark Development and $9,000 split among the seven counties participating in the study.

Keelan said he is excited to start working on the project and he feels there is a good structure in place to facilitate his work.

"I'm starting to learn a little bit more about it. There's going to be a leadership group in each county that we will be working with," Keelan said. "This group is doing it the right way and Bowman did it the right way.

Walworth said she to is excited, especially seeing all the communities working together.

"I can't believe that we have 23 communities that are working together for something like this," Walworth said. "I think it's awesome."

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