Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals is Complete

GRAND FORKS, ND – Ten years after the need was first identified in the City of Grand Forks’ plan to end long-term homelessness, local and state officials celebrated the successful completion of LaGrave on First. The Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) project will house 42 individuals who experienced chronic homelessness. The approach employed at the property is known as ‘Housing First’ where tenants are rapidly housed and then offered services to address the issues that are the cause of their homelessness.

“LaGrave on First is unique in that it pairs permanent, affordable housing and supportive services in the same building,” said Terry Hanson, Grand Forks Housing Authority (GFHA) executive director. “By having services on-site, we are able to immediately address the physical and mental health, substance abuse, education or job training needs of these individuals.”

Grand Forks Homes Inc. (GFHI), the property owner, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. GFHA is the developer and will manage the property. The housing authority will leverage project-based Housing Choice Vouchers to ensure affordability for the extremely low-income households that will reside at LaGrave on First.

GFHA partnered with Beyond Shelter Inc. to develop LaGrave on First. They patterned it after Cooper House, which opened in 2010 in Fargo, N.D., and was the state’s first PSH project for individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness. Through the Region IV Supportive Housing Collaborative, local service providers advocated for the development of a similar property in Grand Forks.

The City of Grand Forks donated the land on which LaGrave on First was constructed, a former city park, and $335,000 in HOME funds. The project is named in honor of Royce LaGrave, the city’s community development and housing authority executive director from 1966-83. LaGrave was known for his resourcefulness and ability to bring about change.

Ninety percent of LaGrave on First’s development costs were covered by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA). The state agency awarded federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to the project that were syndicated by U.S. Bank Community Development Corporation providing almost $7 million in equity. NDHFA also awarded $772,514 from the National Housing Trust Fund. The total project cost is $8.76 million.

“NDHFA prioritized the use of our limited development resources to address the state’s need for community-based permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness,” said Jolene Kline, the agency’s executive director. “While it’s easy for us to talk about what is needed, it’s much harder to achieve success especially when developing housing for individuals with complex needs. These project partners truly need to be commended for the housing and level of services they put together.”

Additional project financing was provided by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, $500,000 from its Affordable Housing Program; a $150,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust; and the Turtle Mountain Housing Authority contributed $10,000.

Altru, Community Options, Northeast Human Service Center, Prairie Harvest Mental Health, Success Unlimited, and Valley Community Health Centers have agreed to provide supportive and medical services at the site.

A four-story building, LaGrave on First is located at 500 1st Avenue South. Administrative offices, an exam room, exercise room, computer room, commercial kitchen and dining room, lounge space, and a laundry room are on the first floor. The 42 one-bedroom/bath apartments are on the upper floors.

Because most of LaGrave on First’s tenants are expected to arrive with minimal personal items, GFHI and GFHA have been working with area churches to outfit the apartments with the necessities needed for daily living – dinnerware, towels, bedding and personal care items.

“Community members can help us make a positive impact in the lives of LaGrave on First’s tenants by supporting our Adopt-a-Unit program,” said Emily Contreras, executive administrator at GFHA. “Contributions can be made via a GoFundMe account, https://www.gofundme.com/lagraveonfirst, or by dropping off donations at the GFHA’s office, 1405 1st Ave N.”

The most recent count of the homeless population put the number of chronically homeless individuals in the Grand Forks area at 62. Due to their instability, such individuals are frequent users of emergency services which can cost the community $30,000 to $50,000 per year per individual. Providing immediate access to housing is expected to save the local community up to 40 percent of the total cost of these individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

GFHA expects to begin moving tenants into the property this month.

Grand Forks Homes, Inc. is a local non-profit formed in 1971 for the purpose of developing and owning affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families in and around Grand Forks, N.D. Members of the board of directors are from eight local churches and a tenant of the properties, all administrative functions are performed by its property manager Grand Forks Housing Authority.

Grand Forks Housing Authority is dedicated to providing safe, decent, affordable housing to the residents of Grand Forks County through federal housing choice vouchers and project-based rental assistance.

A nonprofit developer of affordable housing, Beyond Shelter Inc. has partnered with like-minded organizations to develop 1,037 affordable residential units in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency is a self-supporting state agency that finances the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing across the state. The North Dakota Industrial Commission, consisting of Governor Doug Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees the agency.

Construction Loan Guarantee Program Regulations Updated

BISMARCK, ND – Rural communities struggling to meet the demand for affordable single-family housing are expected to benefit from an update to North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s Construction Loan Guarantee program regulations.

CLGAug18NDHFA’s Construction Loan Guarantee program can now provide up to $500,000 per community or per contractor. Prior to the change, the program limited the number of loans guaranteed to no more than three per contractor and five per community.

“The change allows the lender to work with the builder to determine the balance between construction costs and local demand, taking advantage, when possible, of the economies of scale that comes with building multiple homes in one location at one time,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA’s executive director. “This approach may reduce the overall cost of construction and, in turn, the sale price of the homes.”

NDHFA provides guarantees to lenders for contractors who build or rehab affordable single-family housing on a speculative basis in communities with populations of less than 35,000. Evidence of local support and need for the housing is required to receive a guarantee. The anticipated sale price of the homes must not exceed the Federal Home Administration’s current mortgage limits

“Our goal is to create more affordable purchase opportunities in our growing communities,” said Kline.

More information about NDHFA’s Construction Loan Guarantee program, the program guide and application are available online at www.ndhfa.org or calling (800) 292-8621.

The application deadline for the updated guarantee amount is Aug. 31. Awardees will be chosen based on their ability to efficiently leverage the program. After Sept. 1, awards will be made on a first-come first-served basis until all of the funds have been committed. Currently $1 million is available and while the maximum award is $500,000, there is no minimum award limit.

Agency Reports Record Breaking Loan Production

NDHFA-LogoBISMARCK, ND – First-time buyers pushed North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s (NDHFA) homeownership program to a record-breaking level this spring.

“NDHFA’s FirstHome™ loan reservations total in May was 185 percent higher than last year,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director. The state agency’s program provides first-time home buyers with low-cost financing and, if desired, down payment and closing cost assistance.

The agency received 262 loan reservations in May for $44 million in financing, the highest non-special event month on record. During the same time period in 2017, NDHFA recorded 141 reservations. The agency’s staff attributes some of the demand to the interest rates it is currently offering.

“With conventional financing at 4.25 percent and NDHFA at 3.75 percent, the payment on a $200,000 loan is about $60 less per month,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA homeownership division director.

The greatest uptick in program activity is in Grand Forks County, almost double last year’s. In Williams County, where a limited number of entry-level homes are reportedly available, NDHFA’s loan production is down 25 percent. The greatest overall program use, as is the norm, is in Cass and Burleigh/Morton counties.

Private-sector lenders originate loans on NDHFA’s behalf and sell them to the agency when the loans are closed. Year-to-date, the average loan purchased by the agency is just under $167,000.

The limit for single-family homes purchased is $271,164 to $303,882, depending on household size and the county in which the property is located.

NDHFA’s program is available to state residents earning up to $98,900 who have not owned a home in the last three years. In 2017, the average borrower’s household income was $56,000.
Sixty percent of NDHFA’s borrowers use the down payment and closing cost assistance offered.

“The purchase assistance allows these buyers to enter the market sooner and to keep their funds for household expenses like a lawnmower, furniture and paint for their new house,” said Flohr.

“Homeownership rates in North Dakota declined during the energy boom with many incoming households choosing to rent,” said Kline. “If our purchase activity is indicative of more households becoming homeowners, that is a good thing for North Dakota because homeowners are more invested in their community.” In 2010, the U.S. Department of Census reported that 65.4 percent of North Dakotans owned a home. It is now estimated at 63.5 percent.

A 1997 federal disaster declaration allowed NDHFA to provide purchase assistance to households impacted by flooding including those who had previously owned a home and those whose income exceeded normal program limits. That special event resulted in 280 loans in March 1998 and 268 in Sept. 1997.

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. More information about NDHFA’s homeownership programs is available online at www.ndhfa.org.

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.

YWCA Grace Garden groundbreaking promises critical answer to women and families starting new lives.

 

More photographs from the event are available on NDHFA’s Facebook page.

WEST FARGO, ND – YWCA Cass Clay broke ground today on a new residence, Grace Garden, in West Fargo, ND, that, when it opens in 2019, will reflect a new ideal of how to end homelessness by providing ‘Housing First’.

“Stability is the key to success,” says YWCA CEO Erin Prochnow. “Grace Garden will be a place of safety and sure footing for 30 women and their children seeking a better life. At the residence, families will be able to improve their economic stability and health, breaking the cycles of abuse and poverty for the next generation by being assured of an affordable home and support that’s unique to each family’s goals.”

The new $4.3 million property follows the current mindset in America, one that YWCA Cass Clay has championed for decades.

The Housing First homeless prevention model seeks to get those who are homeless out of crisis and rapidly into safe and affordable housing. From this sure ground, women and children get continuous support and guidance from a YWCA advocate as they work on personal goals for jobs, health, education, parenting and more.

The Grace Garden idea first arose when Pastor Joel Baranko of Lutheran Church of the Cross reached out to the YWCA. Interested developers had offered to purchase the large grassy lot adjacent to the church’s property at 1402 16th St. E. in West Fargo, however the church declined offers that were not consistent with its mission and might have resulted in a less neighborhood-friendly project.

“I began to wonder how God might be calling us to put to good use the property with which we had been entrusted. How can we live and love like Jesus with this land?” recalls Baranko.

The congregation voted to lease the site to YWCA in May of 2018, providing an ideal situation for families served by YWCA because of the close proximity to schools, bus routes, employment and worship opportunities.

Gate City Bank demonstrated their commitment to providing a better way of life by pledging $1.5 million to fund project start-up costs and support services over the first 10 years.

“It’s particularly exciting to fund the staff or human side; the real game-changer to empowering women after they’re safely housed. They get practical life guidance, encouragement and someone to walk alongside them as they courageously work towards life goals they determine. The impact will be great for generations to come,” said Kim Meyer, Gate City Bank Executive Vice President of Retail Banking and Human Resources.

In November 2017, North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) awarded development support to the residence through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit, $672,500, and National Housing Trust Fund, $325,549, and the state’s Housing Incentive Fund, $500,000.

“Grace Garden is a partnership of caring concern from the nonprofit, business and community sectors,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director. “We are pleased to be able to provide the public sector support needed to complete this extraordinary project, ensuring women and children transitioning from domestic violence have a safe and affordable place to call home.”

The North Dakota Department of Commerce is supporting the land acquisition for Grace Garden through the Governor’s Community Development Block Grant Discretionary Funds.

“Our goal at Commerce is directly related to family stability and community revitalization,” Adele Sigl with the North Dakota Department of Commerce said. “Everyone deserves a place to call home and this new YWCA Supportive Housing project is a community solution to help eliminate homelessness by providing hope, dignity, and support in the form of permanent supportive housing.”

The residence will also receive rental assistance from the Housing Authority of Cass County. A $2.2 million, 15-year contract provides 30 Housing Choice Vouchers to ensure every apartment will be affordable to the families that will call them home.

Thanks to the financing secured, the YWCA will not need to conduct a capital campaign to build Grace Garden. The YWCA will fundraise and facilitate donation drives for furniture, equipment and supplies to help families and operate the building.

The YWCA first ventured into providing supportive housing in 1989 when donors gifted a Fargo four-plex to the organization. Today, it operates 32 supportive housing units. The addition of Grace Garden will allow the YWCA to far exceed expansion plans that were put in place by the organization’s local governing board in 2015, a five-year goal of 40 supportive apartment spaces by 2020.

In 2017, 314 women and children were eligible for the YWCA’s supportive housing units, but only 60 were able to gain homes through the organization. “Unfortunately, women escaping domestic violence typically do not score high enough on assessments to be rapidly housed,” said Prochnow.

Prospective participants for supportive housing in the Fargo metro area are screened through an assessment tool used universally by shelters in the region. Shelter providers meet weekly to review the risk scores of homeless individuals in the system. Openings in housing programs are outlined and applicant’s risk scores are used to match them with a housing program that fits.

Grace Garden’s residents will come primarily from the YWCA emergency shelter and other referring agencies in the community.

Construction on the two-story building begins this summer and is expected to finish in spring 2019. The property will include one- to four-bedroom apartments and community spaces for classes and gatherings. Main floor offices will be home base for YWCA advocates, nursing and other professional resources coming onsite.

About YWCA Cass Clay
YWCA emergency shelter is where victims of domestic violence come day and night, 365 days a year, to escape crisis lives and mend emotionally, physically and spiritually. They receive crucial basics like food and clothing, and resources for education and employment as they navigate toward independence. A caring YWCA team connects women and children to community resources that will further empower them. Besides operating the largest emergency shelter for women and children in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, YWCA Cass Clay operates safe and affordable, short- and long-term supportive housing for low-income women. YWCA offers a food pantry, racial justice advocacy, and a nationally accredited public childcare center, A Child’s World. For more information, visit www.ywcacassclay.org.

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.