Jamestown study looks to shed light on ND housing problemJAMESTOWN — It’s a vital element to any community, and the problems in a nine-county region here are echoing those of the entire state: More housing is needed.
By: Ben Rodgers, Forum News Service
JAMESTOWN — It’s a vital element to any community, and the problems in a nine-county region here are echoing those of the entire state: More housing is needed.
More specifically, in Jamestown about 1,200 additional housing units — 12 percent more than what is currently here — will be needed by 2020, according to a new housing study commissioned by the South Central Dakota Regional Council. A previous statewide study determined that much housing will be needed here by 2025.
The council hired Maxfield Research Inc. of Minneapolis to conduct a housing study in the nine counties it serves: Stutsman, Dickey, Foster, Wells, Barnes, Griggs, Logan, McIntosh and LaMoure.
“We showed growth in every one of our counties that was different than what was shown in the base study,” said Deb Kantrud, the council’s executive director.
The new study, which will be completed in April, is covered by a 50/50 match grant from the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. Each county paid roughly $2,945 to be included.
The finance agency conducted a housing study last summer, before development plans were announced in the Spiritwood Energy Park.
“A lot of those announcements, the announcements of John Deere, Spiritwood, Endlesss Harvest, had not been announced at that time,” Kantrud said. “... That was another concern, that we’re missing some of the growth potential here.”
The state study also included only the 10 largest cities in the state. Only Jamestown and Valley City were included in the region served by the South Central Dakota Regional Council.
The council determined the need in June and started the preliminary study in October after board approval.
“We identified an individual in every community to be the liaison between the community and that consultant,” Kantrud said.
The first phase of the study, completed last month, determines difficulties in measuring housing growth and demand. The second phase, which is under way, will bring in local experts who possess that knowledge.
The initial results determined that rural communities track housing growth differently than larger communities. One example is that some smaller, rural communities don’t issue building permits.
Discussion with the regional officials will be about types of building permits, current zoning laws, rental issues with landlords, etc., Kantrud said.
But the problem has become such an issue that officials in the region say employers have had prospective employees turn away jobs because of the lack of adequate housing.
The housing challenge in the region mirrors that of the state, though just not as extreme, said David Klein, executive director of the Stutsman County Housing Authority. The southeastern region of North Dakota served by the South Central Dakota Regional Council is starting to feel the effects of the Oil Patch.
“We’re also seeing things from what we call the ‘Bakken spillover,’” Klein said. “Not just people working in the oil fields, but we hear about businesses relocating here.”
Klein is the liaison between Stutsman County and Maxfield Research in the study.
He reported that on Feb. 12, Stutsman County had a 1.8 percent vacancy rate for rentals.
“You just have to start calculating in your mind how many people this is going to take, and we don’t have anything available temporarily, and we don’t have anything available permanently for additional workers,” he said.
It’s not just development at the Spiritwood Energy Park that worries Klein. Other projects in Jamestown like the repair of water and sewer lines, the construction of a water tower and a possible wind farm north of town are also troubling in terms of housing workers.
In addition, every permanent job at Spiritwood is expected to create 2.5 supportive jobs, Klein said. One example would be truck drivers, as 30,000 semis a year would leave from the prospective CHS plant.
“We have to look at realistically how many people we can get to live here for jobs and other things in the region,” he said.
Valley City is also feeling the crunch, Klein said. Valley City State University doesn’t have enough adequate housing available for staff or students.
“The entire state housing is in a crisis mode,” Klein said. “Everybody is behind, even Fargo and Grand Forks are behind in developing — they can’t keep up.”
Jamestown is the largest city in the nine-county region, and there are problems here for gathering data to be used in the study.
“We’re under that threshold where information is not readily collected — the census doesn’t update our numbers as often as the larger communities in our state, so we have to refine,” Klein said. “We have to take a look at the broad thing and look backwards to see where we’re at.”
Once the study is completed in April, it should provide that look backward and forward.
Kantrud and Klein said it will provide a resource to city and county officials and developers in the nine-county region to establish needs in residential development.
“It’s got to be something truthful and realistic they can utilize,” Klein said.