In the years that Mike Anderson has served as executive director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, the state has faced many challenges and opportunities. It has been through his leadership that the agency has been able to help thousands of individuals and families across North Dakota.
Shortly after Anderson’s appointment as NDHFA executive director, the agency published a report that outlined new priorities. Those priorities focused on housing for developing communities and the state’s aging population, addressing a continued reliance on existing housing stock, providing assistance to tribal housing authorities, and tackling the needs of the state’s homeless population. The challenges had been identified in a Statewide Housing Needs Assessment and were further defined through input from the agency’s housing partners, staff and advisory board members.
“Using data gathered for the assessment, we need to focus local leadership on reality,” Anderson said in a summer 2006 NDHFA newsletter. “If they understand their situation, community leaders will be empowered to drive the issues.”
To help guide communities, Anderson introduced a new agency division – Planning and Housing Development – that went immediately to work addressing the affordable housing challenges.
Progress is Made
NDHFA’s planning and development staff forged alliances, and crafted and launched new programs all with Anderson’s forward thinking goals in mind.
In early 2007, a Statewide Technical Assistance Team headed by NDHFA was announced. Over the course of the next two years, the group of housing professionals held regional roundtables to discuss local housing issues and offer assistance. Their educational efforts encouraged communities to learn more about local housing issues before beginning development and rehab projects.
With a cost-sharing incentive provided by the agency, the City of Williston became the first community to successfully complete a housing market survey and to use that information to attract developers.
Later in the year, the Stanley Community Housing Corp. tapped into a low-cost revolving loan fund that enabled the entity to rehab its rental property.
More structuring changes were made at the agency when Anderson changed the Rental Division’s name to the Property Management Division. Staff now strictly serve as administrators of federal rental programs for low-income, elderly or disabled households.
Recognizing the need to expand the capacity of its nonprofit partners, NDHFA agreed to purchase up to $1 million in DREAM Fund mortgages to increase CommunityWorks North Dakota’s lending capacity. Anderson was also instrumental in supporting other nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, Lutheran Social Services Housing, Rebuilding Together and the Coalition of Indian Housing Authorities of North Dakota.
The Champion of Affordable Housing awards program Anderson started when he was homeownership division director was also enhanced to ensure that more individuals were being recognized for their advocacy.
The agency’s homeownership programs experienced strong demand through 2007, setting a record of 1,733 FirstHome mortgages purchased. That interest continued to be strong in early 2008 and NDHFA reached a milestone in August of $2 billion worth of loans purchased.
Outreach Efforts Continued
NDHFA’s outreach efforts continued with the agency issuing its first single-family construction guarantees to The Bank of Tioga in June 2008. “Community leaders come to us regularly saying that they have a difficult time attracting housing developers and that lenders are reluctant to assume the full risk of providing construction lending in rural areas,” said Anderson.
The special needs population received attention too with NDHFA doubling its commitment to helping low-income families with disabilities improve home accessibility and offering grants to nine communities for the development and implementation of plans to end long-term homelessness. The latter allowed the North Dakota Interagency Council on Homelessness, under Anderson’s chairmanship, to complete and formally adopt a statewide 10-year plan in October 2008. Anderson’s commitment to solving homeless issues in the state remained strong and he was pleased that the Legislature appropriated $2 million for homeless shelters in 2013.
To promote a better understanding of the state’s growing need for affordable housing, in January 2009, Anderson published a report saying, “North Dakota has experienced some phenomenal economic growth in recent years. Unfortunately, this expansion has stressed our housing market, particularly in western North Dakota, pushing housing out of the reach for many families.” Anderson was passionate to not only tell the state’s housing story but to fight to achieve NDHFA’s mission of providing safe, decent and affordable housing for every North Dakotan.
The agency put a federal program intended to help stabilize the financial markets to work creating new rental units and launched an investment incentive pilot program to help rural communities attract developers.
That summer found NDHFA’s main office at a new address, moving south to its present location in Bismarck, and adopting a new logo that emphasized the agency’s focus – housing.
Anderson also drove the creation of a Housing Task Force for Disaster Recovery that was instrumental in helping communities impacted by natural disasters. The task force was rolled up into a coordinated state response organized by the Governor in 2011 and Anderson chaired the Individual Assistance Task Force. The Agency’s efforts with the Task Force were recognized with a Special Achievement award by the National Council of State Housing Agencies.
The Culmination of Activity
A 2010 “State of Affordable Housing in North Dakota” report again illustrated a need for housing that is affordable to households at all income levels. It became an often-cited resource in the battle for one of Anderson’s greatest achievements, the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF). HIF was created during the 62nd Legislative Assembly after several years of work by the Housing Alliance of North Dakota which Anderson was integral in starting.
HIF, designed to assist in developing affordable multifamily housing, is a special revolving fund capitalized by contributions from income tax and financial institution tax payers. More than 600 private investors supported HIF’s first capitalization campaign, contributing $15 million to support the agency’s development efforts.
“Developer interest in the program was strong from the start, with all of the available financing spoken for in less than a year,” Anderson said in January 2013. NDHFA conditionally committed HIF dollars to 24 projects to create 669 new units in Belfield, Bowman, Crosby, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Grand Forks, Kenmare, Killdeer, Kulm, Mandan, Minot, Ray, Watford City and Williston. Total construction cost for the projects is $98 million.
The 63rd Legislative Assembly reauthorized HIF directing $15.4 million in general fund dollars to the program and giving NDHFA the authority to issue $20 million in state tax credits.
The trail blazed by Anderson was not easy. His success required dogged determination. New alliances were made, educational and promotional efforts were increased, and innovative practices were employed.
The individual who takes Anderson’s place will have to be equally determined as the Statewide Housing Needs Assessment completed in 2012 projects significant population growth and increased demand for housing in the state through 2025.
Anderson’s accomplishments as NDHFA executive director have been many and he can go into retirement knowing that through his leadership the agency has and will continue to make a difference for thousands of families across North Dakota.