Category Archives: General Agency News

From the Director, December 2017

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

As 2017 winds down and we look back at all that’s happened this year, I am more and more grateful to each of you for your continued partnership and support of North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and the housing industry in general.

In Washington, tax reform is still in ongoing negotiations and we don’t know for certain the total affect it will have on housing. One issue that is of grave concern to us is Private Activity Bonds, which the House eliminated but the Senate retained. We utilize the state’s Private Activity Bond authority to issue tax-exempt Mortgage Revenue Bonds to fund our homeownership programs. Without MRBs, we would not have the ability to offer competitive interest rates to first-time and other low-to-moderate income homebuyers.

Losing that program would be devastating for the people who need it most. This year, we have seen a continued upswing in homeownership activity. As more homes are on the market and the fevered competition that sprang from the oil boom of the past decade has cooled, first-time and lower-income homebuyers are better able to enter the market. We need to keep our main source of funding in place so that affordable homeownership will continue to be achievable.

Tax reform will also likely have a major impact on the multifamily development side as well. Lower corporate tax rates are expected to cause an approximately 10 to 15 percent drop in the value of Low Income Housing Tax Credits. That means that more credits will be needed per project to make them feasible and affordable. Receiving the small state minimum amount of tax credits, North Dakota Housing Finance Agency is able to fund about four or five projects each year. The unintended consequence of the tax cuts being debated in Congress will be a reduction in affordable housing for low-income individuals and families.

During the legislative session at the beginning of 2017, the Housing Incentive Fund came out with both a win and a loss. The program was made a permanent part of Century Code so we will no longer need to go back to the legislature every two years for renewal. That was a big win, but the loss came from the fact that no additional funding was authorized for the program. Due to some turn backs of previous awards, NDHFA was able to reallocate those funds this fall, but going forward we will not see the activity under that program that we have since 2011 when it was first created.

In 2017, NDHFA rolled out a program to assist community land trusts in North Dakota to have the capacity to do their work. The pilot allows CLTs access to a line of credit for acquisition/rehab or new construction of homes in their program. The Grand Forks CLT was the first to put the funding to use.

NDHFA is working out the details with the City of Minot to assist flood buy-out homeowners and those affected by the 2011 flood in buying a new home there. We look forward to having the program up and running very soon.

While these are just a few of the myriad of things that happened in housing this year, I certainly want to express my deep gratitude to those we work with every day. It is that day-to-day work that makes a difference in lives of North Dakota families. It is that work that gives people a warm place to sleep at night and a dining room table to gather around with family and friends.

I wish you the brightest blessings this holiday season and hope for another wonderful year full of partnership and progress in 2018. Thank you and happy holidays!

 

Garvin Recognized With Rocky AHMA Award

Jolene Kline, Janet Garvin and Wayne Glaser of NDHFA.

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s Janet Garvin was honored with a Contract Administration Special Recognition Award by the Affordable Housing Management Association’s Rocky Mountain Region at its 35th Annual Conference.

Garvin’s reputation for being fair and listening to all aspects of a situation was cited in the award nomination. And that while Garvin is thorough in her processes, she takes the opportunity to educate and assist in a helpful way. Further, that Garvin uses the Management Occupancy Review as an opportunity for training rather than an audit.

The nominator describing Garvin’s handling of a recent situation involving an extremely ill tenant who was battling cancer and was unable to pay her rent due to overwhelming medical bills. Garvin met with the tenant and explained the hardship exemption and the process involved, and that she continued to reach out and follow-up to ensure that everything was taken care of.

As a contract administration specialist in NDHFA’s property management division, Garvin is charged with ensuring that Western North Dakota’s Section 8 properties with US Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance contracts provide safe, decent and affordable rental housing for their low-income, elderly or disabled tenants.

“The apartments overseen by our property management division are home to some of North Dakota’s lowest-income households,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director. “It is heartening to hear that the staff goes out of their way to ensure that the individuals and families who call these units home are treated with dignity and compassion. Congratulations, Janet, we are proud of you.”

AHMA is the leading voice for affordable housing management, advocating on behalf of multifamily property managers and owners whose mission is to provide quality affordable housing. The Rocky Mountain Region includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Lender Training Available This Fall

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency will host lender training in Bismarck and Fargo this fall.

“The training includes an introduction to NDHFA’s homeownership programs – FirstHome™, HomeAccess and North Dakota Roots, a review of the different loan types, borrower and property eligibility discussion, and how to lock a loan,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA homeownership division director.

The course is open to new and pending participating lender staff, and current participating lender staff who are interested in a refresher.

The trainings will be held on Oct. 4 at the Comfort Inn, 1030 E Interstate Ave, Bismarck; and Nov.1 at the Expressway Suites, 4303 17th Ave S, Fargo. Both training sessions will begin at 9:00 a.m. CDT and should be completed no later than 1:00 p.m. There are no registration fees, however pre-registration is required.

Discounted sleeping rooms are available at the Comfort Inn, (701) 223-1911; or Expressway Inn, (701) 239-4303, by asking for the “ND Housing” block. Rate is $81.90 for a single or $100 for a double.

If you have questions about the training, contact Dave Flohr at (800) 292-8621 or hfainfo@nd.gov.

From the Director, August 2017

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

So often in our work, we use the term “affordable housing” and equally as often, we get the question about what that means.

Affordability is traditionally defined as spending no more than 30 percent of your income on housing costs. It is enshrined in nearly all of the programs we deal with and it is the best objective measure that we have available to us. We have to set the standard somewhere and it is easier for policymakers and the public to understand the number of households who are challenged if we can talk about it in consistent terms like “affordable” or “cost burdened.”

In all reality, affordability is very subjective. Each individual, family or household has a unique set of circumstances, income and expenses. Household budget decisions are influenced by many factors and while we like to think of housing costs as first priority, sometimes they have pretty stiff competition. Spending 30 percent on housing costs may be affordable for one household but not another that may have higher child care or healthcare costs. Affordability changes as life goes on as well – what was out of reach at one point in your life may be much more easily attained later. Or, for example, seniors may be able to afford housing costs when they are working, but it is a harder pull when they are living on a fixed income.

What can be confusing in understanding “affordable housing” is that while affordability is achieved at a personal level in any kind of housing, we use the term to talk about publicly-funded projects and programs. We call them affordable housing developments or discuss the importance of affordable housing resources. While there are other terms that have been used to talk about these types of projects – low-income, subsidized, rent-restricted, income-restricted, etc. – I like to use “affordable housing” because it spells out more clearly what we are trying to achieve. The mission of NDHFA is to make housing affordable for all North Dakotans and affordability is the main goal behind all of our programs.

We aren’t in the business of just giving out free money; we expect that if a project is going to take public funds than the public needs to see a benefit for it for the duration that is set out from the beginning. That benefit is affordability. It is the driver behind program rules and regulations and why we continuously monitor compliance of housing projects. We have been charged to be stewards of a precious resource and, while we also strive to be flexible and understanding of changing market conditions, we have to uphold our obligations and expect our housing partners to as well.

It would be incredible if one day we could say everyone can afford their housing costs on their own, but I know there will always be individuals and families in need for a multitude of reasons that are as unique as each of us. NDHFA aims to do what it can and we appreciate your partnership in achieving “affordable housing.”

Affordable Multifamily Housing Development Assistance Available

BISMARCK, ND – North Dakota Housing Finance Agency is currently accepting applications for approximately $3.75 million in development assistance through the Housing Incentive Fund, a state program that strengthens communities by providing rental housing for essential service workers and low- to moderate-income households

HIF Invest in Your Community“Priority will be given to applicants that demonstrate both the need for the affordable housing units and the support of the community in which the project is located,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director.

The HIF program support is available due to the cancellation of previous financial commitments.

NDHFA is currently accepting applications for two federal development programs as well – the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and the National Housing Trust Fund. LIHTCs provide an incentive for the production or rehabilitation of low-income housing. The purpose of the HTF is to increase and preserve the supply of housing for extremely low-income households.

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. (CDT) on Sept. 29, 2017. More information is available online or by contacting the agency’s planning and housing development division staff at (800) 292-8621 or hfainfo@nd.gov.

NDHFA is a public financial institution dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Gov. Doug Burgum, as the chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, oversees the agency.

Fugere Joins Housing Agency’s Homeownership Division

Amy Fugere

BISMARCK, ND – Amy Fugere of Bismarck, ND, was recently hired by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. The state agency helps low- to moderate-income North Dakotans achieve homeownership by providing down payment and closing cost assistance, and affordable mortgage loans.

A homeownership specialist, Fugere will work primarily in mortgage acquisition, reviewing loan applications and communicating with participating lenders to ensure compliance with program standards. As needed, Fugere will assist with borrower services.

“Amy’s lending background makes her an excellent addition to both the homeownership origination and servicing teams,” said Jolene Kline, the agency’s executive director.

Prior to coming to work at NDHFA, Fugere worked at Capital Credit Union as an underwriter and at Gate City Bank as a loan officer.

The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Governor Doug Burgum, as the chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees NDHFA. For more information on the agency’s homeownership programs, contact NDHFA at (800) 292-8621 or hfainfo@nd.gov.

From the Director, June 2017

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

Summer is always a busy time of year in North Dakota and for the housing industry this year isn’t any different.

While new home construction remains well off the record pace we saw just a few years ago, we are seeing more activity under NDHFA’s homeownership programs. Year-to-date through May, our flagship FirstHome™ program is up by 55 loans over 2016. That may not sound like a lot, but it amounts to about $10.4 million more in loans that we’ve purchased this year than last. That signals to me that as price increases have moderated, more people are taking advantage of the opportunity to become homeowners.

This was part of the economic playbook all along. As supply and demand reached equilibrium, those who had been shut out would again be able to enter the market. For many, though, the down payment assistance offered through NDHFA makes all the difference. In 2016, more than 80 percent of the borrowers using our programs also utilized this important resource. I expect that we will continue to see that trend this year and into the future.

Our partners know better than anyone that the past decade has been chock full of ups and downs, challenges and opportunities. In the case of a lot of first-time homebuyers, for everything in their favor, it seemed like there was something against them – interest rates were low, but prices were higher; new construction meant there were more homes on the market, but the competition was fierce. While things may have slowed down from the white hot housing market a few years ago, the people NDHFA loans are targeted at have benefited. The more people we can get into reasonable and affordable homeownership, the better off and more sustainable our communities and state will be.

Our main goal at NDHFA is to provide access to housing resources for the people who need it most. We can’t do that without our private sector partners and I want to express my deepest appreciation to you for making June Homeownership Month – and every month – a great time to buy a home.