One of the things that I’ve learned in my time in affordable housing is that the world for us can change very quickly. The housing market today is different than it was five years ago and five years ago was different from 10 years ago. Where will the next five, 10 or 15 years lead us? I can’t say for sure, but we are working on a best guess.
The Statewide Housing Needs Assessment is being updated and is on track to be completed by the end of this month. While I can’t give you any definitive sneak peaks at what Dr. Nancy Hodur and her team of researchers at North Dakota State University are finding, I do believe that the Assessment will again be very instructive as to where we are headed. Again we will be examining data at a number of different levels of geography from statewide to the eight planning regions to all 53 counties, 12 largest communities and four American Indian Reservations.
The saying is that you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you are and I think that is fitting for housing in North Dakota. We have to have a good understanding of what has happened in the last four years since the Housing Needs Assessment was last updated. We have begun to look at data sources – like building permits, home and lot sales prices, and the number of people with a disability, among others – alongside the traditional resources like U.S. Census Bureau data. It all feeds into a very complex model to determine estimates of population, households and housing units over the next 15 years.
The Housing Needs Assessment is more than just estimates of how many houses need to be built, there will be a wealth of information on income, ages, housing type and special populations. We are proud of the work we have been doing with the North Dakota Department of Human Services to collaborate on supportive housing and housing that has accessibility features for those who need it. We will include information on people with a disability like we do for the elderly and the homeless – so that as the discussion of affordable housing progresses, we keep in mind the special challenges some may have in finding suitable housing.
We will also be including information on projects that were funded years ago through various federal programs and may now be reaching the end of their affordability period – and sometimes their useful life. There are thousands of units in the affordable portfolio in the state that are at risk. By including this in the Housing Needs Assessment, communities can have a conversation about the value of that housing for the community and its residents and what needs to happen.
The Statewide Housing Needs Assessment has been an incredibly useful tool to the state and to so many of our partners. We are excited to see what it says and begin the meaningful conversations about where we are headed in the future.