On September 10, 2014, the Dakota Center for Independent Living held a housing forum to discuss housing issues in the western part of North Dakota. about 75 people came together from Bismarck, Williston, Minot, Dickinson, and other cities in the western part of the state. The high rent prices stemming from the oil fields is making it hard for people to find affordable housing. Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs 30% or less of your gross income. In Williston, the price for an apartment ranges from $1,000 per bedroom to $2,000 per bedroom.
A presentation from the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency started off the event. This presentation discussed what affordable housing is, how affordable housing can exist, and also discussed many of the issues in the western part of the state regarding housing. One of the major issues mentioned is that the amount of housing being built cannot keep up with the need for housing. The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency discussed various subsidies and tax cuts that can be used to help build affordable housing as well as the challenges surrounding funding.
After the presentation, people from the audience were invited to share their personal stories of housing challenges or housing success. A single dad and resident of Williston who works in the oil fields brought not only his story, but the stories of those who could not attend. He discussed how his trailer court is raising the lot rent by 233%. He said he is lucky enough to afford it, but he sees the challenges of others around him. Many of the trailer courts in Williston are now requiring people to use only a specific brand of trailer in the court. This means that people who sell their trailer end up having to remove it from the park and replacing it with one of the allowed trailers. To read more about his story, click here.
A man who works for legal services in Minot brought his story about how the law is causing more housing issues in North Dakota. He discussed how their is no way to get out of paying rent and many people are being pushed out of their homes due to the high rent prices. He has done some statistical work and found in Minot, evictions have gone from 67 evictions a year to over 197 evictions a year. He discussed how Minot is the next battle, because it won’t be too long before people can’t afford living in Williston at all. For many in Williston, people who own their home are unable to stay there because of the increased cost of living. To hear more of this story, click here.
Soon, the panel was seated. The panel included the following people:
National: US Senator John Hoeven’s office represented by: Kristen Hamman, Regional Director
US Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s office represented by: Renae Aarfor, Southeast Area Director
US Congressman Kevin Cramer’s office represented by: Daryl Lies, Staff Representative
State: North Dakota State Senator Rich Wardner, Senate Majority Leader – Dickinson, District 37
Local: Honorable Dennis Johnson, Mayor of Dickinson, N.D.
The panel each shared their view on the housing issues in North Dakota before the panel was opened to questions from the audience. Some of the questions asked include homelessness, lack of affordable housing, lack of accessible-affordable housing, lack of housing for rehabilitated criminal offenders, lack of homeless shelters, section 8 vouchers, and many more.