A year and a half ago, Hunter Easterling completed law enforcement training and moved from California to Dickinson, ND, to pursue a career as a police officer.
While settling in to a new career, Easterling found that finding a home in a growing oil boom town wasn’t easy. He lived in an RV park, a hotel and an apartment that was not quite ideal before Patterson Heights Apartments, a new affordable housing development, became available.
Developed by Beyond Shelter, Inc., Patterson Heights Apartments is one of the first developments in North Dakota to set-aside rental units specifically for law enforcement personnel.
“The place is outstanding; everything is new,” said Easterling. “It was such a relief to find a place to live, truly a weight off my shoulders.”
In recent years, Dickinson has experienced an influx of energy industry workers and, while new housing units are being added, finding affordable housing is a challenge. Recruiting and retaining the personnel that provide essential public services is difficult due to increased housing costs and shortages.
Dave Wilkie, administrative captain at the Dickinson Police Department, has noticed significant growth in his home town.
“Our department has grown over the last few years and we are adding more and more officers as needed,” said Wilkie. “Many out-of-state workers are hired because they are good candidates looking for a job and their own local police departments are slowing down.”
The department is constantly in touch with real estate agents and apartment managers about potential listings, rental openings or even basements for rent to aid their staff in finding places to live. The city of Dickinson also has FEMA trailers available for officers just until they can find something more permanent.
“Having affordable housing is really important to our community. There are many people who don’t work in the oil fields and they can’t afford the high rents and live comfortably,” said Wilkie. “We currently have three officers living in Patterson Heights and the development has truly been a Godsend to our police department.”
Patterson Heights is supported by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s Housing Incentive Fund (HIF) and a Law Enforcement Pilot Program (LEPP). The programs are a means to create affordable rental units for essential services workers and households of limited means during a time of significant economic growth.
Created during North Dakota’s 2011 legislative session, HIF provides developers of affordable rental units with low cost financing. It is capitalized by contributions from state taxpayers. Contributors to the fund received a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit for their support.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission, working with the Attorney General’s office, asked NDHFA to develop LEPP. The program was funded with North Dakota’s approximately $3 million share of the Mortgage Servicing Settlement Fund and is targeted to creating housing for law enforcement personnel in communities in energy-impacted areas.
Due to the continued demand for affordable housing for essential service workers in energy-impacted communities, the state legislature made providing such housing a HIF program priority. NDHFA is currently working with city and county governments to address such needs to accommodate their circumstances.
“I like Dickinson,” said Easterling. “The city is growing, I like my new development and I really appreciate the housing I’m living in.”