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Affordable housing for Dunn County? Multi-unit development would focus on families

Dunn County Commission Chairman Glenn Eckelberg listens to a presenter at a commission meeting at the Dunn County Courthouse on Wednesday in Manning.

MANNING -- Dunn County could be getting much needed affordable housing for lower-income families and seniors.

John Phillips, of Lutheran Social Services Housing of North Dakota, brought plans for a 12- to 24-unit development in Killdeer to Wednesday's Dunn County Commission meeting at the Dunn County Courthouse. LSS is also looking at building 12 units in Dunn Center.

"There may be a shortage of workforce housing, but that's not really our focus," he said. "They're truly looking for that family-orientated housing where they can -- it's one of the big reasons for a lot of the turnover. ... They can't bring their families here."

The project would be mixed income, with 20 percent having to meet income standards, 10 percent having to be at 60 percent of the area's median income and 10 percent having to be 120 percent of median income.

The median Dunn County income was $52,861 from 2007 to 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A lot of workers like the area and would like to bring their families but high rents and real estate prices will prevent them from doing that, he said. Workers will take an opportunity back home before they move their family here because of the cost of living.

In Killdeer, the proposed development would sit near the 2 7/8 Bar and Spring Creek.

Amenities in the Killdeer development could include a park, a common room and a child care facility.

"One of the things you find with all the good intentions of that person wanting to open a day care, they're pretty expensive to get up and running with that and so the banks aren't really standing in line to finance day cares because of the history," Phillips said. "She could work it where she could pay a lease on a building, but to buy something is much more difficult."

The common area in senior housing would also be a welcome addition to the community. Commissioners said there aren't many places in Killdeer for the older generation to frequent.

"There's no place to play cards in Killdeer," Commission Chairman Glenn Eckelberg said with a chuckle. "They throw us out of every building."

Commissioner Bob Kleemann agreed, adding that pinochle is a Killdeer tradition and a quiet room with a coffee pot and a TV is all that is needed.

Government entities can purchase equity in the project for $40,000, which would allow them control of one unit for the life of the project, he said. In LSS' 124-unit Watford City development, the school district considered this option to house teachers, but opted out due to timing.

Any tenant, whether an employee or sublet renter to the unit, would have to pass the same background check as others living in the building, Phillips said, adding that someone working as a teacher or law enforcement would have to pass an equal or stricter background examination.

LSS Housing is the manager and owner of the apartments.

The project is in the development and fundraising stage and Phillips did not bring a timetable to the meeting. LSS is hoping to leverage money from North Dakota's Housing Incentive Fund.

"The older people can actually move out of their house as they become available for someone who is in an apartment looking for a house," Commissioner Daryl Dukart said. "And that's what this is all about."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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