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Area, state officials discuss southwest housing needs

Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer Ken Davis, housing and community development coordinator for the Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development, speaks during a housing hearing held Thursday at Gate City Bank in Dickinson.

The housing needs of the southwest portion of the state was the topic of discussion at a housing hearing held by the North Dakota Department of Commerce Thursday at Gate City Bank in Dickinson.

Area and state officials discussed concerns over housing, indicating there is need for: Rehabilitation of homes in Mott, Regent and other rural areas, additional transition housing, shelters for the homeless, low income affordable rental units housing, housing for the elderly, permanent supportive housing as well as housing for the mentally ill.

Information from the meeting will help officials compile a comprehensive plan, which they will submit to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Gordon La France, with the commerce department.

"Every five years, the state has to submit a consolidated plan to HUD, listing what our needs are," La France said. "What we're concerned about in all these areas are what the housing needs are and what needs to be done."

La France said meetings such as these will also be held in seven other regions of the state to determine their needs.

Darianne Johnson, director of the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis center of Dickinson, said some of her concerns are with low-income families not being able to find affordable housing.

"With the tornado, the main buildings that were taken out were low-income housing," Johnson said.

Gloria Fichter-Rau, direct service coordinator with the center, said issues begin arising when a minimum credit score of 600 is required for anyone wishing to rent.

"What I'm seeing primarily is, for instance, affordable housing," Fichter-Rau said. "These people are working three jobs and they are unable to make it. We're looking in the paper together, and it says there are a whole bunch of apartments for rent, but you have to have a 600 credit score or better. I don't think anyone I work with has that hardly ever. It's really limiting."

Participants agreed that with the oil industry being present in the area, lower-income people are being priced out of the market.

La France said he expects the consolidated plan to be posted online at some point in January, where comments will be taken.