North Dakota advocates for affordable housing and homeless assistance are celebrating several victories as the state’s biennial budget heads to Governor Jack Dalrymple (R) for his signature. When the legislative session began in January the outlook for housing programs was gloomy. The state’s budget would be tightened because of diminishing oil industry tax revenue. North Dakota organizations advocating for the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF) and the North Dakota Homeless Grant (NDHG) faced an uphill battle throughout the legislative process, but came away with strong results. The budget allocates $30 million to HIF and $1.5 million to NDHG. The North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, largely organized the advocacy for these programs. The North Dakota chapter of that National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), was a particularly important ally in the fight to funding the HIF.
The Housing Incentive Fund is a key component of North Dakota’s affordable housing strategy. The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency oversees HIF. Since 2011, more than $49 million has been distributed to projects, leveraging more than $240 million in construction financing. HIF-assisted projects are targeted to households with income at or below 30% of the area median income (AMI), and have maximum rents equal to 30% of 30% of AMI. The $30 million appropriation is less than the $100 million sought by advocates and the $50 million that Governor Dalrymple requested. Securing $30 million required significant budget amendments, with legislators ultimately responding favorably to housing providers and economic development organizations illustrating the importance of HIF in meeting some of the need for workforce housing. In response to skeptical legislators wanting to know what success would look like for affordable housing in North Dakota, advocates urged the legislature to continue appropriating funds for HIF until North Dakota’s rental housing vacancy rates returned to normal levels of 5% to 8%. In addition to the $30 million generated by the issuance of state tax credits, the HIF will receive an immediate $5 million infusion of profits from the Bank of North Dakota, with an additional $5 million that is contingent on the bank’s earnings in 2015.
Funding for the North Dakota Homeless Grant at $1.5 million is a significant victory. The 2013 biennial budget funded NDHG at $2 million, but as one-time funding not to be renewed. Numerous service providers testified before the legislature about the positive impact of rapid re-housing programs. In North Dakota, rapid re-housing efforts have achieved an 87% housing stability rate. Approximately 40% of NDHG funding is devoted to rapid re-housing, with the remaining funds used for shelter operations. Advocates are grateful to Senator Larry Robinson (D-Valley City) for championing NDGH in the budget conference committee.
Advocates secured a third victory of new funding to construct shelters for victims of domestic violence. A coalition organized by the Council of Abused Women’s Services (CAWS) demonstrated the compelling need for more emergency housing services in response to the escalating prevalence of violence against women in North Dakota. Their efforts won $2.65 million in the state budget.
For more information, contact Michael Carbone, Executive Director, North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People, at firstname.lastname@example.org.