Category Archives: General Agency News

From the Director, November 2018

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

Over the past seven years, NDHFA has leveraged the state’s Housing Incentive Fund, working with developers and non-profits across North Dakota to create affordable housing and permanent supportive housing units for low- to moderate-income households, persons with disabilities, the frail elderly, and individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

What we have learned along the way, as many of you already know, is that the need is greater than the available resources. During the last funding round, eight applicants requested more than $4.7 million, however, only $1.6 million from HIF re-balancing dollars was available. The applicants also requested Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Housing Trust Fund dollars because projects that serve extremely low-income households need to have minimal to zero debt after construction to be able to cover operational and maintenance costs.

With our HIF resources now depleted, NDHFA’s staff waits to see if the program will receive new funding during the 2019 North Dakota Legislative Session.

During a recent meeting with the state’s Office of Management and Budget and the Governor’s staff, NDHFA requested $50 million be included in Governor Burgum’s budget for HIF. We know this is a substantial request, but we also know that the demand is present across the state as housing affects every community, urban and rural. Numerous organizations have reached out to NDHFA offering support for HIF, and it is reassuring to know that we are not the only entity that believes in the program.

Fortunately, housing is a bi-partisan issue, and we look forward to working with all of our state legislators, either newly elected or those returning to the capitol in January, to come to an agreement on the program’s future funding level.

At the federal level, NDHFA also continues to express the importance of development programs to rural states, working to ensure our message is not muted by states with larger populations. This year, North Dakota was one of the first states in the country to successfully construct and lease up a project utilizing the Housing Trust Fund, which was created and implemented in 2016. Our close relationships with local communities and public and private entities expedited the planning and construction process, which is sometimes envied by other states.

Recently, after evaluating more ways to get people into homes without using state or federal funding, NDHFA modified our North Dakota Roots program, increasing the income limits to assist in communities where the housing market still presents challenges. Roots is a resource for local lenders to be able to offer affordable financing and down payment and closing cost assistance to households who may have previously owned a home or who are first-time buyers whose incomes exceed the limits of our FirstHome™ program.

And, while the market greatly impacts the ability of people to find housing, sometimes the challenges are created by the individual. Through our newly implemented and operational Opening Doors Program, landlords now have access to a risk mitigation fund that eases concerns about housing individuals and families who have had bad experiences in the past either as a renter or in the justice system. Funding for Opening Doors was made possible through a partnership with the ND Dept. of Human Services.

NDHFA continues to evaluate our existing programs and make modifications, responding to market and community needs. With the changes made recently, we anticipate increased business and we hope that 2019 will be another record-breaking year for the agency as we strive to ensure that everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home.

From the Director, August 2018

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

Throughout my years at the agency, I’ve learned that when communities advocate for themselves, the outcome can be dynamic. This month I participated in three community events where organized and passionate stakeholders, focused on long-term goals, achieved their vision for diversified housing. It is exciting to be a part of their vision during the development phase and to celebrate their successes at major milestones.

LaGrave on First in Grand Forks is a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) project that will house 42 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness utilizing the ‘Housing First’ model where the individuals are rapidly housed and then offered services to address the issues causing their homelessness. After years of planning, six funding streams and strong community support, LaGrave on First opened its doors this month.

Another Housing First project, Edwinton Apartments in Bismarck, broke ground in August. It will create 40 new PSH units and be operational by the fall of 2019. The project is located within an Opportunity Zone that was designated by Gov. Burgum earlier this year.

We know that chronically homeless individuals cost communities $30,000 to $50,000 every year. Providing these individuals with immediate access to housing is estimated to save a community up to 40 percent of the total cost. Having a home is so important as the foundation for a new life where individuals can feel safe and begin their personal journey to stability and recovery. LaGrave and Edwinton are modeled after the Cooper House, North Dakota’s a Housing First project which opened in Fargo in 2010. After seeing Fargo’s success, other communities have a viable, working template to customize to fit within the parameters of their own needs.

Minot’s Park South Apartments, built in 1948 as a convent and converted to apartments in the 1980s, now offers 40 renovated housing units, 30 are deemed affordable. This project is a significant milestone for Minot for many reasons. In 2016, the city applied for and was awarded one of 13 National Disaster Resilience (NDR) grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development totaling $74.3 million. The city designated $21 million of their award for affordable multifamily housing. Park South is one of the first NDR completed projects in the nation and fills a critical affordable housing gap in the community. The project also received $2.23 million from NDHFA’s Housing Incentive Fund which was made possible by financial contributions from local banks, businesses and individuals in exchange for $2.23 million in state income tax credits.

Further west in the state, the Williston/Watford City areas are once again dealing with housing shortages which is also a workforce recruitment issue. In April, conversations began about how NDHFA’s Construction Loan Guarantee program could be leveraged to alleviate the pressure on this housing market. After analyzing the potential impact and discussions with multiple community stakeholders, the program has been modified. It can now provide up to $500,000 in guarantees per community or per contractor. Initially, it was designed to no more than five guarantees per community and three per contractor. This change will allow lenders to work with builders to determine the best balance between construction costs and local demand, taking advantage when possible of the economies of scale that come with building multiple homes in one location at one time. We are interested to see how communities benefit from the program change.

NDHFA’s mission is to make housing affordable for all North Dakotans, making the agency a stakeholder in every urban and rural community across the state. Together with these communities, private industry, nonprofits, faith-based entities and government agencies, we are making progress.

From the Director, June 2018

 

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

This spring, NDHFA staff have been busy breaking records, breaking ground and ranking at the top of the nation!

In May, the agency received a Tier 1 ranking for the FY 2018 Q1 from HUD’s National Servicing Center for servicing Federal Housing Administration guaranteed single-family loans. The tier ranking system measures a mortgagee’s compliance with delinquent servicing guidelines and requirements in the areas of early delinquency intervention, loss mitigation engagement quantity and quality, and reporting. HUD established the tier ranking system to protect FHA borrowers from servicer non-compliance and to monitor potential servicer-specific or industry-wide delinquent servicing issues. A higher work-out ratio shows a servicer’s effectiveness in working with delinquent borrowers to keep them out of foreclosure. We are proud for scoring 97.18 percent!

Since the beginning of 2018, we’ve tracked the uptick in our FirstHome™ loan reservations. In May, they were 185 percent higher than last year, officially breaking the agency record. We received 262 loan reservations that month for $44 million in financing, which is our highest non-special event month ever. During the same time period in 2017, NDHFA recorded 141 reservations. The agency’s staff attributes private-sector lenders originating loans on our behalf and the current interest rate. NDHFA recently closed on the sale of $125 million in private activity bonds leveraging private capital to allow the agency to purchase these mortgages from the originating lenders.

Breaking ground happened at the YWCA Cass Clay Grace Gardens which will provide housing for up to 30 women and their children at-risk of homelessness, many of whom are transitioning from domestic violence situations. It was a privilege to stand with the YWCA, Lutheran Church of the Cross who is leasing the land for the project, Gate City Bank who is donating $1.5 million over 12 years for start-up costs and supportive services, ND Department of Commerce for committing $250,000 in CDBG funding for land acquisition, Housing Authority of Cass County for committing $2 million in Housing Choice Vouchers, and Beyond Shelter for developing the residence. This project is a true example of a public-private partnership that creates safe and affordable housing with supportive services unique to each family’s needs and goals to improve their economic stability and break the cycles of abuse and poverty for the next generation. The development assistance provided to the project by NDHFA is just shy of $7 million.

I hope the second half of the year keeps on track with all of the successes we’ve been able to celebrate this year.

Long-Serving State Employee Set to Retire

Delores Hummel

BISMARCK, ND – More than 55 years after she began working for the State of North Dakota, Delores Hummel is ready for retirement. Not only is she one of the state’s longest-serving employees, she’s also had a front-row seat for the roll-out of several significant government programs.

In 1963, one day after graduating from Bismarck High School, Hummel began working at the Public Welfare Board, the state agency now known as the Department of Human Services (DHS), for the Old Age Assistance Program where she processed reimbursement claims submitted by the counties.

“When I started at DHS, everything was merit-based,” said Hummel. “I took a test a couple weeks before I graduated from high school, received a notice in the mail that I’d passed and, when I called, I was offered a position as a clerk.”

A couple years later, after Title XIX of the Social Security Act established Medicaid, Hummel was transferred to a newly created division, Medical Services. She was one of the three employees who worked to establish the medical assistance program in North Dakota. DHS’s Medical Services Division now employs 49 people.

“Later, I was assigned as a committee clerk for the peer review committees that established guidelines for physicians, pharmacists, dentists, hospitals and nursing homes in implementing Medicaid provisions in their respective practices,” said Hummel. “It was probably my favorite position, something I really enjoyed.”

Hummel’s career turned toward housing in 1973, when she moved within DHS to work on an Experimental Housing Allowance Project. North Dakota was one of a handful of states to pilot the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program. What began in only four counties – Burleigh, Cass, Stark and Stutsman – went statewide as the Section 8 Housing Assistance Program (HAP).

In 1980, an initiated measure established a housing finance program within the North Dakota Industrial Commission to provide affordable financing for first-time homebuyers. The commission directed the Bank of North Dakota to act as the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) and later directed the bank to administer the HAP program as well. Two years later, NDHFA broke away from the bank and Hummel stayed on to manage the newly formed agency’s administrative needs. For the final 36 years of her career, she has remained in that capacity, acting as NDHFA’s business manager.

During Hummel’s 55 years with the state, there were eight different governors – William Guy, Arthur Link, Allen Olson, George Sinner, Ed Schafer, John Hoeven, Jack Dalrymple and Doug Burgum. She didn’t anticipate this run. Nonetheless, she has this to say about the experience, “Each of the positions I held were challenging and interesting. It truly provided me with a very rewarding career.”

NDHFA will host an open house to honor Hummel on July 3, 2018, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. The event will take place at the agency’s Bismarck office, 2624 Vermont Avenue.

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

Agency Receives Tier 1 Ranking

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) received a Tier 1 ranking for the FY 2018 Q1 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Servicing Center for servicing Federal Housing Administration (FHA) guaranteed single-family loans.

“NDHFA scored 97.18 percent ranking the agency in the top 17 percent of all FHA servicers nationwide,” said Dave Flohr, the agency’s homeownership division director. That quarter, 971 FHA servicers were scored.

The tier ranking system measures a mortgagee’s compliance with delinquent servicing guidelines and requirements in the areas of early delinquency intervention, loss mitigation engagement quantity and quality, and reporting.

HUD established the tier ranking system to protect FHA borrowers from servicer non-compliance and to monitor potential servicer-specific or industry-wide delinquent servicing issues. A higher work-out ratio shows a servicer’s effectiveness in working with delinquent borrowers to keep them out of foreclosure.

“The ratios used for the calculations can be unpredictable and a score can be impacted by one loan’s performance,” said Flohr. “For that reason, our score doesn’t matter as much to HUD as consistent compliance with policy and regulations.”

Of the 8,200 loans NDHFA currently services, 3,900 are FHA guaranteed. The last time the agency was ranked Tier 1 was for FY 2017 Q1.

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.

From the Director, May 2018

The 2018 Statewide Housing Conference brought together more than 340 housing providers, lenders, real estate agents, tribal members, state and federal employees, and invested citizens of our state. Problem solving happens around a cup of coffee and in the hallways, and that was evident as individuals from numerous industries were able to share what they are experiencing from each corner of the state in relation to the current housing market.

Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford reiterated how critical housing is and how much it impacts the state’s economy—if people can’t afford to live in a community, business can’t find a reliable workforce. It was insightful to hear how Watford City rallied the public and private sector to find solutions to challenging issues and how our agency was able to bring to the table financing programs such as the Housing Incentive Fund, Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Law Enforcement Pilot Program.

We also learned that although North Dakota has an affordable housing shortage, so does every other state in the country. What makes us unique is that builders are building even if the homes are larger and at a higher price point. Our featured speaker, economist Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D., stated that the United States economy is strong and will continue to be so for another 18 months. Even though time and stability are on our side, we have to be prepared to reinvent ourselves in the event of a recession.

This month, state agencies will meet with the Office of Management and Budget and Governor Burgum’s staff to discuss how we can reinvent the way we do business to be more efficient, enhance the customer experience and trim our budgets by at least 10 percent. The fluctuating state budget is already impacting agencies eight months prior to the 66th Legislative Session.

So how does NDHFA begin to reinvent itself while also looking at ways of doing more with less? We are having those conversations around the table over a cup of coffee and in the hallways, seeking everyone’s input because right now, no idea is a bad idea.

We remain committed to our homeownership programs. Homeownership provides stability and shelter, and to help more people achieve this milestone, our income and acquisition limits were just increased. The maximum income limits for NDHFA’s FirstHome™ and HomeAccess programs were set at $83,900 to $98,900, and North Dakota Roots was set at $117,460 to $138,460. The limits vary depending on household size and the county in which a financed home is located.

The FirstHome and HomeAccess acquisition cost limits were set at $271,164 to $303,882 for a new or existing single-family home. Higher limits were approved for existing two- to four-unit properties. These limits also vary based on the county in which a property is located. North Dakota Roots program users must comply with limits set by their loan insurer or guarantor.

Two of our most successful affordable multifamily housing development programs, Low Income Housing Tax Credit and National Housing Trust Fund, are currently open for applications for their 2019 and 2018 funding rounds, respectively. The assistance can be used to support the construction, preservation or rehabilitation of rental units for the most vulnerable members of our communities, ensuring these individuals and families have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home.

While the next few weeks will be spent analyzing budgets, staffing and programs, we will also be rolling out a new Landlord Risk Mitigation Fund. This fund is feasible through a partnership with NDHFA and the North Dakota Department of Human Services to mitigate the potential financial risk to landlords who rent to individuals with a criminal background, bad credit or previous eviction history. NDHFA will be implementing the fund in a manner similar to the program offered by the Fargo-Moorhead Homeless Coalition. Additional information will be provided soon.

The Landlord Risk Mitigation Fund was a goal outlined in North Dakota’s 10-Year Plan to End Long-Term Homelessness that was drafted by the ND Interagency Council on Homelessness in 2008. NDHFA is also working on drafting the final report and evaluating how the state has done overall to end long-term, chronic homelessness. This project involves many program managers in numerous state agencies in addition to the mayors of Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks. Social and housing issues are never resolved without collaboration and pooling of resources, and the future is faced with more obstacles due to the magnitude of the behavioral health epidemic and the upswing in Bakken oil production. We know that we did not reach our final goal from a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t produced successes.

We have a lot of work to do, we always do. And, the staff at NDHFA are proud to work with all of you to make North Dakota a place that more than 700,000 individuals can call home.

Assistance Available for Affordable Housing Development

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) is accepting applications for affordable multifamily housing development assistance through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) programs.

“The Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Housing Trust Fund programs support the development of housing for the most vulnerable members of our communities, ensuring these individuals and families have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director. The agency administers the federal programs on the state’s behalf.

Developers awarded LIHTCs sell the credits to raise capital from investors, reducing the debt required to build, preserve or rehabilitate a property. The equity provided makes it possible to rent the housing units to households earning 60 percent or less than Area Median Income (AMI).

The intent of the HTF program is to increase and preserve the supply of housing for extremely low-income households, those earning less than 30 percent of AMI, including homeless families. The assistance provided can be used for the production, preservation, rehabilitation and operation of a property. HTF financial awards are structured as forgivable zero-interest loans.

Eligible recipients of these development resources include units of local, state and tribal government; local and tribal housing authorities; community action agencies; regional planning councils; nonprofit organizations; and for-profit developers.

The LIHTC and HTF program plans and applications are available online at www.ndhfa.org or by contacting NDHFA at (800) 292-8621. The deadline for submission is Sept. 28, 2018.

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