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Housing Finance Agency director says there's uncertainty over the future of an incentive fund

The head of North Dakota’s Housing Finance Agency says she’s concerned about the future of the Housing Incentive Fund.

In 2015, the Legislature agreed to provide $30 million in tax credits for individuals and companies that contributed to that fund. Contributors would get a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state income tax returns. And the money is used to help build low-and-moderate income housing.

Agency executive director Jolene Kline says it could be harder to continue that effort – given the current state budget.

"When you have a state pull-back on funding, coupled with a federal decline in funding, it makes us have to make some very tough decisions as to who we serve out there and who we leave behind," said Kline. "Our challenge, along with our partners by our side, is going to be to tell some compelling stories on what the housing issues are out there."

Kline says there is still a need for affordable housing throughout North Dakota. She says even with the slowdown in the oil patch, affordable housing can be hard to find.

"The average Social Security payment for a senior is somewhere in the $1100 range per month," Kline said. "They can't afford a lot of rent. And it is for the minimum wage worker who's making $7.25 an hour."

Kline says a statewide housing needs assessment will be done this summer.  She says the stakeholders in the Housing Incentive Fund are saying in addition to the need for new affordable housing for seniors and lower income workers, there’s a need to update existing housing.

"They said it's time to start taking a look at how we repurpose and reenergize those existing affordable housing projects that are 30 to 40 years old, and funded through USDA Rural Development or HUD," said Kline. "They need a face lift to keep them viable in the rural communities. And these are often the 4, 8 and 10 unit properties in very rural communities. And they're the lifeblood of those communities -- because that's where the seniors are living."

Kline says the challenge is to find the money to invest in those properties.

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