Action on housing issues during the Legislative Session has been happening at a steady pace as the Assembly moves through their work. We are continuing to watch what will ultimately happen with the housing bills, particularly the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF).
Currently there are two bills winding through the system regarding HIF – Senate Bill 2257 and House Bill 1014. SB 2257 was approved by both houses, but the House of Representatives amended the bill so we are awaiting whether the Senate will accept the changes or send it to a conference committee to iron out the differences. HB 1014 has passed the House and is currently in Senate committee. That bill likely won’t come out of committee until toward the end of session in April.
I want to thank all of our partners who have been so instrumental in telling the housing story to the Legislative Assembly. Many of you have shown up at committee hearings, provided written testimony, and called and emailed your local legislators about the needs in your community and throughout North Dakota for affordable housing options.
During the committee hearing for SB 2257, it was standing room only and, as I understand it, the largest committee hearing of any bill before that committee this year. We have tremendous partners in the housing industry and that’s what makes a difference.
I hope that you will continue to spread the message with legislators of the need for affordable housing resources. HIF has been a very successful program in creating much-needed new housing options across North Dakota. That need has not diminished and I believe the HIF program still has an important role to play in helping the state address the unmet needs. We have communities that are constrained from further growth because of the lack of housing options.
In a news report earlier this week, the challenge of growth and housing in North Dakota was highlighted. “After a decades-long population drain, North Dakota became the fastest growing state in the nation in recent years, expanding by nearly 10 percent in a 50-month period ending last June, according to Census figures. That pace dropped sharply in 2014 but the state still preserved its No. 1 ranking.
“Growth last year trickled to just 2 percent, a slowdown attributed to the lack of housing, not plummeting oil prices,” read the Associated Press article.
Working day-to-day on the front lines of the housing industry, you know that better than anyone though. And after listening to the demographer speak at the Statewide Housing Conference in February, we know that North Dakota will continue to grow in number and diversity. We will face new challenges in meeting the varied needs of all of the generations that want to call our communities home.
To meet those challenges, though, you need the right tools. Making sure those tools will be there starts with telling our story to lawmakers. So again thank you for your efforts and please keep up the good work!