COVID-19 Emergency Rent Bridge

During this challenging and uncertain time, it’s more important than ever to have sustainable housing. To help individuals and families who are experiencing a loss of income due to COVID-19, the state of North Dakota has created an Emergency Rent Bridge.

To qualify, renters must be experiencing an economic hardship that is COVID-related, have a lease and limited savings and other resources, and be income qualified. A month-to-month lease is acceptable.

To determine eligibility, renters complete a survey that provides qualified households with a preliminary approval via email. The renter shares this email with their housing provider to indicate that they have applied for rental assistance. To actually receive the assistance, the renter is required to verify their income and available resources. The Rent Bridge staff reviews the application and, if they qualify, the renter receives an Emergency Rent Bridge Confirmation ID Number to facilitate payment.

Before a housing provider receives the payment, they must create a vendor account in ND’s Office of Management and Budget Supplier Registry. The account is used to validate the rent due for each renter who applies for assistance. Only one vendor account is needed unless a housing provider manages multiple properties that each have a different bank account.

To learn more about the Rent Bridge, visit the program’s website, http://www.nd.gov/dhs/info/covid-19/rent-bridge.html. The site outlines the processes for both renters and housing providers, includes a FAQs document, flyers that can be shared with renters who are struggling to pay the rent, and the income and rent limits.

Essential Service Worker Definition Expanded

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) has expanded the definition of an Essential Service Worker (ESW) living in a Housing Incentive Fund (HIF) supported development. Previously an ESW was defined as an individual employed by a city, county, school district, medical or long-term care facility, the State of North Dakota or other income-qualified workers as determined by the agency who provide an essential public service.

Effective immediately, NDHFA is expanding its ESW definition to include an individual employed by a city, county or tribal government, public school district, the State of North Dakota, the North Dakota National Guard, a medical facility, childcare provider, grocer, farming operation or other employer as determined by the agency that provides an essential public service.

EXPANDED DEFINITIONS

Childcare Provider: a business or organization that primarily provides childcare services. A self-employed individual who provides childcare services within their own residence is not eligible.

Farming Operation: farming, tillage of the soil, dairy farming, ranching, raising of crops, poultry or livestock, and production of such products in an unmanufactured state.

Grocer: a merchant of staple foodstuffs, meats, produce and/or dairy products.

Medical Facility: a facility which primarily provides or delivers health-related goods or services. Examples include: a clinic, hospital, surgical, outpatient, dental care, hospice, long-term care, rehabilitation, pharmacy, medical supplier or other facility as determined by NDHFA .

Tribal Government: any tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any regional or village corporation, that is recognized as eligible for special programs or services provided by the United States Government because of their status as Indian.

If you have any questions about the expanded ESW definitions, contact the Planning and Housing Development Division staff at hfainfo@nd.gov  or (701) 328-8080.

From the Executive Director, May 2020

Dave Flohr, executive director

It is incredible how so much can change and remain the same, at the same time. In mid- March, NDHFA closed its doors to the public and sent 80 percent of our staff home to begin teleworking. Our IT and HR departments went into overdrive, ensuring staff had the equipment and remote access they needed. While our office and parking lot are desolate, and most businesses and interactions are now done over the phone and computer, I am proud to say that we have continued to provide excellent customer service. Less than 3 percent of our borrowers have called about forbearance protocols and fortunately, most were able to make their April mortgage payment. May and upcoming months may be harder, we don’t know yet, but the staff is up to date on federal regulations, moratoriums, and guidelines to provide accurate information to assist these individuals and families, so they understand all of their options. While processing loan applications is taking a bit longer due to extra verification measures, our reservation numbers are on par with last year and our balance sheet remains strong.

While compliance monitoring for multifamily housing units has been restricted to desk reviews, no on-site visits, and extensions were granted for some federal project financing to accommodate delayed construction, other federal and state programs continue to move forward because our housing partners and developers need continuity to continue to serve the state’s most vulnerable populations.

New to many of us is the amount of time we now spend in meetings to conduct normal business on top of state and federal meetings to comprehend the new guidelines, protocols and regulations. A few staff are assisting on multi-agency statewide taskforces to develop and organize resources for citizens that may be housing insecure in addition to responding to citizen and media inquiries. The pandemic has been a catalyst to eliminating silos in state government. It is all hands on deck, outside of the box thinking and leveraging of the skills and time capacity of everyone willing to take on the challenge.

As I stated previously, in some areas we haven’t missed a beat. The agency recommended and received approval to increase the FirstHome™ program cost limits to $294,600 for a single-family home and set the maximum income limits at $86,000 to $119,945. In 2019, the average FirstHome loan purchased by NDHFA was just over $168,000, and the average borrower’s household income was $60,600.

The allocation plans for the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit and the National Housing Trust Fund programs have been published. NDHFA reviews the plans annually to ensure they are addressing the state’s current housing needs. The next competitive application round will be in September 2020.

The agency’s Helping Housing Across North Dakota (HAND) program awarded $200,000 in grants to targeted community programs for the housing rehab needs of lower-income individuals and families. NDHFA has allocated over $6 million in earnings since the program began in 1993 to assist more than 7,500 households.

Finally, on May 1st, I began my first day as the newly appointed executive director of NDHFA by the North Dakota Industrial Commission. I have been with the agency for almost 40 years and it continues to be a blessing every day. Even though our office doors will remain closed to the public and no date has been set as to when we will open, I look forward to the changes and the challenges that are on the horizon within our industry and know that whether the staff is at the office or in their homes, we are always working to ensure that every North Dakotan has a safe place to call home. 

Allocation Plans Published for Affordable Housing Development

BISMARCK, ND – The allocation plans that guide North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s (NDHFA) administration of the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) programs have been published. NDHFA reviews the plans annually to ensure they are addressing the state’s current housing needs.

“The affordable housing development programs overseen by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency help communities address the housing needs of their most vulnerable populations,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA executive director. The programs support the construction or renovation of housing for low-wage workers, and elderly and disabled households.

LIHTC encourages private sector investment in affordable housing through tax incentives. Property owners receive the housing credits for up to 10 years based on capital investment and level of commitment to low-income tenancy. NDHFA anticipates $3 million in credit authority will be available, pending congressional approval, which would generate more than $27 million in project equity.

The HTF’s purpose is to increase and preserve the supply of housing for extremely low-income households, including homeless individuals and families. Through the program, $3 million is available.

The application process for the programs is competitive with the top-scoring projects receiving conditional commitments from NDHFA. The applicants must provide evidence that there is a need for the type of housing proposed, that the community supports the development and that the construction costs are reasonable.

More information on these programs and other financial and technical assistance provided by NDHFA is available online at http://www.ndhfa.org or by contacting the agency’s planning and housing development division at (800) 292-8621 or hfainfo@nd.gov.

NDHFA is a self-supporting state agency dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Gov. Doug Burgum, as the chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, oversees the agency.

Flohr Appointed to Lead Housing Finance Agency

Dave Flohr, executive director

BISMARCK, ND – The North Dakota Industrial Commission has appointed David A. Flohr as the executive director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA).

“Dave has an excellent understanding of North Dakota’s affordable housing needs and exhibited great leadership as the head of North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s homeownership division,” said commission members in a joint statement. “We are pleased that he is willing to take on this new role and we anticipate having a continued good working relationship with him as the agency head.”

An NDHFA employee for 36 years, Flohr was appointed to serve as the agency’s interim executive director when Jolene Kline retired in July. He has been the homeownership division director since 2005. The division helps North Dakotans, primarily first-time buyers, become successful homeowners by offering homebuyer education, down payment and closing cost assistance, and affordable mortgage loans.

“I am grateful to the North Dakota Industrial Commission for putting their trust in me to continue leading the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency,” said Flohr. “And, I would like to thank the agency’s staff for their commitment to addressing the state’s affordable housing needs, working towards ensuring every North Dakotan has a safe and affordable place to call home.”

A self-supporting state agency, NDHFA is dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. In addition to helping individuals and families achieve homeownership, the agency supports the development of and ensures the continued availability of safe and affordable rental housing for vulnerable households including low-wage workers, elderly, disabled and homeless individuals and families.

The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Governor Doug Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees the agency.

FirstHome Purchase Assistance Program Limits Increased

BISMARCK, ND – New eligibility limits for programs that assist North Dakota residents, typically first-time buyers, with a home purchase have been approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission. Administered by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA), the programs provide low-cost financing, and down payment and closing cost assistance.

“North Dakota Housing Finance Agency has helped more than 46,000 households buy a home,” said members of the Commission in a joint statement. “The support provided by the agency not only makes homeownership possible for more individuals and families, it also benefits the communities in which these households established themselves.” The Industrial Commission, consisting of Gov. Doug Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees the agency.

Through NDHFA’s FirstHome™ program, low- to moderate-income buyers who have not owned a home over the last three years can receive the purchase assistance. The agency’s HomeAccess program provides single parents, veterans, and families with disabled or elderly households members who may have previously owned a home with the same assistance.

The Commission set the programs’ acquisition cost limits at $294,600 for a single-family home and set the maximum income limits at $86,900 to $119,945. The Commission approved higher acquisition cost limits for existing two- to four-unit properties. The income limits vary depending on household size and the county in which a financed home is purchased.

The Internal Revenue Service regulates the income and acquisition cost limits.

“Home buying activity across North Dakota has been strong during the first quarter of 2020 and continued record low interest rates are allowing more state residents to be able to purchase a home they can afford,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA interim executive director.

In 2019, the average FirstHome loan purchased by NDHFA was just over $168,000, and the average borrower’s household income was $60,600.

Private-sector lenders originate the loans on NDHFA’s behalf and sell them to the agency when they are closed. Parties interested in learning more about the agency’s programs will find information online at www.ndhfa.org or by contacting a participating lender.

NDHFA is a self-supporting state agency dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans.

Single-Family Housing Rehab Program Grants Approved

BISMARCK, ND – The North Dakota Industrial Commission approved an allocation of almost $200,000 today through Helping Housing Across North Dakota (HAND). The program addresses the housing rehab needs of lower-income individuals and families by providing grants to targeted community programs. North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) administers the program.

“Helping HAND ensures North Dakotans of limited means continue to have a safe and affordable place to call home,” said Commission members in a joint statement. The Industrial Commission, consisting of Gov. Doug Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees NDHFA.

The 2020 grant distribution follows:

  • Community Action Partnership, Dickinson/Williston, $15,479.
  • Community Action Partnership, Minot, $20,489.
  • Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency, Devils Lake, $15,505.
  • Red River Valley Community Action, Grand Forks, $21,441.
  • Southeastern ND Community Action Agency, Fargo, $42,709.
  • Community Action Region VI, Jamestown, $11,697.
  • Community Action Program Region VII, Bismarck, $27,080.
  • Spirit Lake Tribal Housing, Fort Totten, $14,666.
  • Trenton Indian Service Area, Trenton, $14,666.
  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Belcourt, $14,666.
  • Rebuilding Together, Fargo, $800.
  • Rebuilding Together, Mandan, $800.

Helping HAND assistance is provided to households with incomes that do not exceed 80 percent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s median for the county in which their home is located. Matching funds of at least 25 percent of the total project costs are required to access the grant dollars.

“Through Helping HAND, North Dakota Housing Finance Agency has allocated over $6 million in agency earnings since the program began in 1993 to assist more than 7,500 lower-income individuals and families statewide,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA interim executive director.

NDHFA is a self-supporting state agency dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. More information on the agency and the affordable housing programs it administers is available online at www.ndhfa.org.