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Study predicts high demand for low-income housing in N.D.

BISMARCK -- An updated study of housing needs in North Dakota projects the state's population will grow 20 percent by 2029, with the greatest increase coming in low-income households that will drive demand for affordable housing.

BISMARCK - An updated study of housing needs in North Dakota projects the state's population will grow 20 percent by 2029, with the greatest increase coming in low-income households that will drive demand for affordable housing.

"There still going to be some pretty significant needs in the low- and very low-income areas," said Jolene Kline, executive director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency.

Kline presented a report on the draft study Tuesday to the state Industrial Commission, which oversees the housing agency and last fall commissioned North Dakota State University researchers to update their 2012 Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. The final report should be posted to the agency's website next week, she said.

The study projects the state's population will climb from 739,482 in 2014 to 891,268 in 2029, and that the growth will be geographically mixed, with some areas continuing to see a decline and urban centers experiencing the most growth.

Prolonged low prices for crude oil and farm commodities have slowed the state's economy, but researchers found the economy is still strong and labor markets are tight, which will continue to put pressure on housing prices that have seen dramatic increases in many larger communities.

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"High housing costs are shutting people out of homeownership," Kline said, noting a lack of affordable housing can constrain economic development efforts and hamper employee recruitment and retention.

Only south-central Region VI, which includes Jamestown and Valley City, is projected to see weakened demand for housing, while demand is projected to remain steady in north-central Region III around Devils Lake. Housing agency officials cited a lack of employment opportunities in those areas, as well as baby boomers moving to urban areas to access services.

Most areas of the state will need additional affordable housing units as the number of low-income households is projected to jump by about 25 percent by 2029 and moderate income households are projected to increase by roughly 20 percent. Kline said it's "critical" that the state figure out how to preserve its existing stock of Section 8 low-income rental housing.

She also updated the commission on how the agency is fighting homelessness in the state. Based on a point-in-time survey, North Dakota had 923 homeless people on Jan. 28, down from 2,069 in 2013 at the peak of the oil boom but still well above the 614 homeless people a decade ago.

"Looks like we're trending in the right direction at least," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said, though he added social services also need to be addressed. Dalrymple chairs the three-member commission, which also includes Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

The state's five-year-old Housing Incentive Fund has been used to create 118 units targeted specifically to homeless households, 240 units for extremely low-income households and 116 units for very low-income households, Kline reported. The fund provides up to $3 million or 30 percent of the cost of new apartment and rental units to reduce developers' debt so they can set cheaper rental rates, while giving contributors to the fund a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit.

Lawmakers authorized $40 million for the program in 2015-17, and Kline said the report will provide information as they decide whether to reauthorize the program. The agency was still deciding how to roll out the plan to help communities identify housing needs and projects, she said.

Related Topics: HOUSING
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