From the Director, April 2014

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

In February, the National Housing Conference published a report that looked at severe housing cost burdens across the country. North Dakota fared very well with 11 percent being severely cost burdened – well below the 15.6 percent national average. That report, which was examined in an article in Governing magazine, prompted an email from a legislator asking about the numbers and the conflicting stories about “affordability” that we hear every day.

While it is interesting to see how North Dakota sits compared to the rest of the nation, the numbers from the report need to be taken in a much larger context.

Lately, “affordable housing” has become a vague or misrepresented term. Generally, when a household spends 30 percent or less of their gross income on housing and utility costs it is considered to be “affordable.” Households are cost burdened when they spend more than that on housing and are severely cost burdened when they spend more than half of their gross income on housing.

The NHC report looked only at “working households,” which are those with members working a total of at least 20 hours a week and household income that does not exceed 120 percent of area median income. The report shows that there were 132,904 households fitting this description in North Dakota in 2012 and that 15,012 or 11.3 percent were severely cost burdened.

The significant and growing number of senior households that are no longer in the workforce are not contemplated in the study. North Dakota has more than 64,000 households that are 65 or older and that is projected to reach more than 98,000 by 2025 as the Baby Boom generation ages. Cost burdens affect these households at a higher rate both in homeownership as well as renters. These fixed income households with an average income of $41,346 are less able to tolerate increases in housing costs than working households.

It is not surprising that North Dakota’s numbers look comparatively better than the rest of the country – especially when North Dakota led the nation in personal income growth in 2013 – but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication that everything is fine. There are thousands of households that struggle every day to balance housing with other costs like food, child care, transportation and medical expenses. When a household has to spend half of its gross income on housing, the budget decisions for the other half get very tough and sometimes important needs can get neglected.

Housing burdens also negatively impact the economy, in general, as there is less discretionary spending. Business expansion and growth can be hampered when there are not affordable housing options because of the difficulty of recruiting and retaining workers. Shortages of affordable housing options for workers are not just an oil patch concern; in fact, companies in Grand Forks, Jamestown and Valley City have felt the pinch of a tight housing market.

While housing construction has been happening at record pace in many areas of the state, the NHC report further illustrates the importance of truly affordable housing options for lower income households. Thanks to the Housing Incentive Fund, North Dakota has significantly increased the production of housing units targeted to these households, but there is certainly much more to do in the years ahead.

Jolene Kline
NDHFA executive director

Dettlaff Heads Servicing Department

Brandon Dettlaff

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) has named Brandon Dettlaff as the Homeownership Division’s loan servicing coordinator.

“Brandon’s leadership and talent coupled with his past experience make him a great asset to our homeownership division,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA homeownership division director.

Dettlaff has been with the state agency for six years and previously served as mortgage loan specialist. In his new position, he oversees mortgage loan servicing including payment and escrow administration, foreclosures, collections and defaults, mortgage insurance claims and new loan set-up for both internally and externally serviced loans. Dettlaff also assists the division director in the development and procurement of administrative procedures for loan administration.

NDHFA is a public financial institution dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. The agency facilitates affordable mortgage financing, assures the continued availability of low-income rental housing, and seeks to provide for the state’s changing housing needs.

The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Governor Jack Dalrymple, who serves as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees NDHFA.

Federal Tax Credits Support Affordable Senior Housing

BISMARCK – The Industrial Commission announced today that the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) has allocated $2.4 million in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to five affordable senior housing projects.  The 163 units constructed will be located in Dickinson, Fargo, Jamestown, Minot and West Fargo.

“As North Dakota has grown dramatically in the last few years, so has the need for affordable housing for our aging population,” commission members said in a joint statement.

The Industrial Commission, consisting of Governor Jack Dalrymple as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees NDHFA.

“We were pleased to receive so many good applications for quality projects, and to have the applications that will create housing for our most vulnerable population score so well,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director. “The 2014 credits bring an estimated $21 million in equity to the projects.”

The credits are awarded annually through a competitive application process. NDHFA received eight applications for the 2014 credits. All of the top-scoring applications were for projects providing housing for households age 55 and older.

Through the LIHTC program, the property owners receive an annual federal tax credit for 10 years. In return, the projects must be affordable for households at or below 60 percent of area median income for at least 15 years.

For more information on the LIHTC program, contact Sylvia Burgess at (800) 292-8621 or info@ndhfa.org.

NDHFA provides low-cost mortgages for low- to moderate-income households, finances the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing, and monitors program compliance on low-income housing projects across North Dakota.

Klingfus Joins Housing Agency’s Planning Staff

April Klingfus

BISMARCK, ND – April Klingfus was recently hired by the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) as a housing outreach officer in the agency’s planning and housing development division.

Klingfus will be responsible for researching funding sources, reviewing market studies, identifying community needs, developing local housing strategies, and providing development guidance.

“I am really looking forward to playing a part in the state’s housing development process, making a positive difference in quality of life by helping to provide more affordable places to call home,” said Klingfus.

Prior to coming to work at NDHFA, Klingfus was employed with Wells Fargo as a home mortgage consultant. 

NDHFA is a public financial institution dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. The agency facilitates affordable mortgage financing, assures the continued availability of low-income rental housing, and seeks to provide for the state’s changing housing needs. For more information on the agency, contact NDHFA at (701) 328-8080, (800) 292-8621, (800) 366-6888 (TTY) or visit us online at www.ndhfa.org.

The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Governor Jack Dalrymple, who serves as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees NDHFA.

Champions of Affordable Housing Recognized

BISMARCK, ND – The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) recognized several lending partners and housing advocates as Champions of Affordable Housing at the 23rd Annual Statewide Housing Conference on Feb. 27.

“North Dakota has experienced dramatic changes in recent years, and the Housing Finance Agency’s challenge to provide safe, decent and affordable housing for every North Dakotan has grown substantially,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who presented the awards on behalf of the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

NDHFA’s lender awards are based on participation in its homeownership programs and involvement in locally sponsored affordable housing projects and events. In addition to honoring lending institutions that originated the loans, mortgage loan officers that actively promoted the agency’s programs were also recognized.

The lending institutions recognized include Dakota Community Bank & Trust, First Community Credit Union, Gate City Bank, and Security First Bank of North Dakota.  Individual loan officers honored were Gail Jacobson and Laura Dwyer of Bismarck, Kathie Dunn and Mary Radenz of Jamestown, and Debby Wisdom of Mandan.

Wolf Run Village in Watford City was recognized with a Housing Production Award. The city, county and school district formed a non-profit organization to implement the construction and operation of the 42-unit apartment complex to provide affordable housing for local government employees.

John Phillips of Beulah was recognized with the Leadership Award. Phillips has served fulltime as a real estate development specialist for Lutheran Social Services Housing since 2010. His advocacy on behalf of the organization has helped put six affordable housing projects in place in Western North Dakota.

Former NDHFA Executive Director Mike Anderson, who retired in May 2013, was honored with an Achievement Award.

“Mike was a tireless advocate for affordable housing to meet North Dakota’s most critical needs,” said Goehring. “His accomplishments as the Housing Finance Agency’s executive director were many and I think he went into retirement knowing that through his leadership the agency has and will continue to make a difference for thousands of families across North Dakota.”

NDHFA began recognizing its housing partners with the Champion of Affordable Housing Awards in 1995. For more information on the awards or other agency programs, contact NDHFA at (800) 292-8621 or www.ndhfa.org.

The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, as chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, oversees NDHFA.

Developer Highlight: Kris Fehr

Kris Fehr of AK Investments

Kris Fehr of AK Investments doesn’t shy away from helping her community of Dickinson, North Dakota.  She serves as an assisting minister and sings in the choir at St. John’s Lutheran church; she is director of the Best Friends Mentoring Program; she’s involved with Boy Scouts, is an active Rotarian, and serves as President of the school board.  So when an opportunity came to further help residents of Dickinson, Fehr jumped right in.

In the last five years, Dickinson has become a hub for the oil and gas industry and many have moved into the area for the economic opportunities.  The current housing stock that is affordable for low- to moderate-income households has become limited with the high growth rates.  Service sector businesses have faced challenges in attracting and retaining crucial Main Street employees.  Housing options for essential service workers such as law enforcement personnel, teachers and medical professional are also limited.

“I was hearing heartbreaking stories,” said Fehr.  “Rents were increasing and some residents couldn’t afford to stay here.  I felt like we could make a difference and help address our community’s affordable housing shortage.”

In 2011, Fehr read about the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF), administered by the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency.  It was created during the legislative session that year to provide developers of affordable rental units with low cost financing.

Fehr put an application together and it was accepted in an early 2012 funding round.  HIF was the perfect tool for Kris and her husband, Alan, to convert 161 S Main, a 100-year-old property, into 10 units of affordable housing.

Ribbon cutting for 161 S Main in Dickinson, ND.

While the couple had acquired and owned rental property for many years, this would be the first project that they would be developing. Despite the challenges of finding a contractor, working through a myriad of details, coordinating city inspections, utilities, water, additional financing and dealing with a couple minor setbacks, the apartments were completed in September 2013.

“We didn’t set out to be developers; we enjoyed meeting a need in the community,” said Fehr. “HIF did what it was intended to do.  Our units were nearly all rented in two months and our tenants are new residents of Dickinson – all ages and all ethnicities.”

Through the process, Fehr developed a new admiration for developers.

“There is really so much involved and so much can go wrong, you really have to work as a team and depend on others to complete the project,” said Fehr.  “It was my goal to be open, honest and straightforward with what I’m doing and to communicate.  In the end it was really satisfying to know we could help others.”

Since 2011, developers like Fehr have made more than 1,500 units in 57 developments in communities across the state possible by utilizing HIF. Those projects provide much-needed housing for families, essential service workers and disabled and elderly households.

“These units are for people who are not making the big money, yet they are working as ambulance drivers, firefighters, grocery store clerks, mechanics, office managers, dental hygienists. They are part of what makes our town great, progressive and productive.  If we don’t find ways to support them, they will leave,” said Fehr. “Everyone deserves quality housing.”

From the Director, February 2014

Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director

I would like to thank everyone for the well wishes I’ve received since I took over the Executive Director role permanently in December. Your kindness and enthusiasm have given me even more motivation to continue making North Dakota Housing Finance Agency the best it can be.

In the nine months since I took on the huge task of filling Mike Anderson’s shoes, I have been extremely busy learning much more about all facets of the Agency’s operations, especially homeownership and all the details that go into financing those opportunities for our fellow North Dakotans. I am appreciative of the hardworking Agency staff who take on that task not just as a job, but as a mission. And of course we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our numerous partners. It is all of the lenders, real estate agents, developers, builders, elected officials and housing industry leaders who make housing in North Dakota work.

But it is important to also remember what we are working for – affordable housing opportunities for every North Dakotan. The faces of those renters and homeowners who have a new place to call home are inspiring. So often we hear the stories of those who struggled to find housing and it is heartwarming to know that we had some small part in bringing them home.

North Dakota continues to face housing challenges with headlines announcing city-sized population growth in the past year and homelessness tightening its grip on those with few other options. While we have made great strides alongside our partners in addressing housing issues, certainly there is much more to do.

In that spirit, I want to personally invite you to join us for the 23rd Annual Statewide Housing Conference on Feb. 26-27 at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck. We have a dynamic conference planned with incredible speakers, timely and informative breakout sessions and, of course, excellent opportunities to network and discuss how together we can all make it “Mission: Possible.”

Again thank you for your friendship, partnership and commitment to achieving our goals. I hope to see you in Bismarck on Feb. 26-27.

Jolene Kline
NDHFA executive director

Farm Bill Impacts Rural Housing Programs

Passage of the Farm Bill extended Rural Area Eligibility for USDA housing programs, in turn impacting the eligibility of growing North Dakota communities for technical and financial assistance available through NDHFA’s planning and housing development programs that utilize the same standard.

“Communities with a population of 35,000 or less will now be able to access the planning assistance, market survey grants, and rehab and development loans that the agency offers rural communities,” said Jennifer Henderson, NDHFA planning and housing division director. Previously, the agency’s assistance was limited to communities with a population of 20,000 or less.

A Statewide Technical Assistance Team led by NDHFA staff helps rural communities define housing needs, develop necessary projects and see those projects through to completion. The agency’s Housing Market Survey Grants offer a cost-sharing incentive to develop a local housing strategy. The Rural Housing Development Loan Program provides short-term financing for predevelopment soft costs, land acquisition, site development and construction financing. And, the Rural Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program offers low-cost loans for the rehabilitation of single- and multi-family properties.

President Obama signed the Farm Bill on Feb. 7.

NDHFA is a self-supporting state agency that finances the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing across North Dakota. The North Dakota Industrial Commission oversees the agency. More information on the assistance provided by the agency’s Planning and Housing Development Division is available online at www.ndhfa.org. 

Agency Hosts 23rd Annual Housing Conference

Event Provides Affordable Housing Educational and Networking Opportunities

BISMARCK, ND – The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency(NDHFA) will host the 23rd Annual Statewide Housing Conference, “Mission: Possible,” on Feb. 26-27, 2014, at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck, ND.

“The conference is a great opportunity for housing industry professionals and community leaders to come together to learn about available resources and to discuss ways to address North Dakota’s affordable housing challenges,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director.

The conference opens on Wednesday morning with a roundtable discussion with legislative and housing industry leaders about how the housing development community can continue to meet the needs of the state.

Conference keynote speakers include crisis leadership and decision making expert Lt. Col. Robert Darling who supported the President, Vice President and National Security Advisor in the President’s Emergency Operations Center on Sept. 11, 2001; Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D., a nationally acclaimed economist and public speaker; and Kathleen Neset, president of Neset Consulting Service Inc. and an authority on the state’s energy industry.

Breakout session highlights include special guests, Frank Garay and Brian Stevens, hosts of the National Real Estate Post, who will introduce mortgage lenders and real estate agents to exciting and unique ways of delivering their message to customers. Additional breakout session topics include: getting started with affordable housing development, utilizing bond financing, lender training to identify self-employed borrower risks, basic fair housing law, collaboration to provide supportive services alongside housing, and rental program updates.

NDHFA will present its Champion of Affordable Housing awards at the closing luncheon on Thursday. The awards honor individuals and organizations who have made exceptional contributions to affordable housing in North Dakota. Lenders participating in the agency’s homeownership programs will also be recognized.

The North Dakota Real Estate Commission and the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners have each approved the conference for continuing education credit. Real estate agents will receive three hours of mandatory course credit for attending the Fair Housing Law breakout sessions on Feb. 26. Real estate agents and social workers who attend the full conference are eligible for eight credit hours.

The conference registration fee is $150 if postmarked by Feb. 19. One-day only registration is $80. For more information about the event, contact NDHFA at 701/328-8080, 800/292-8621 or info@ndhfa.org. Conference registration materials are available online at www.ndhfa.org.

The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, as chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, oversees the NDHFA.

State Adjusts Homeownership Program Income Limits

BISMARCK – The Industrial Commission has adjusted income limits in state homeownership programs, making more North Dakotans eligible for mortgage loans with below-market interest rates as well as down payment assistance and closing cost assistance.

“The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s (NDHFA) homeownership programs have helped more than 38,000 North Dakota families buy their first home, and have assisted hundreds of new and returning residents in establishing themselves in our communities,” Commission members said in a joint statement. “Last year, more than 900 North Dakota residents were able to make homeownership a reality with the help of these programs.”

The Commission consisting of Governor Jack Dalrymple, as chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring oversees the agency.

“The FirstHome™ program’s new maximum income limits will range from $69,600 to $90,850, depending on household size and the county where a financed home is located,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive Director. “The greatest increase was in Williams County where a one- to two- person household can now earn up to $79,000 and a household of three or more may earn up to $90,850.”

The previous income limits in Williams County were $69,500 and $79,925. The limits in Burleigh and Morton Counties decreased from $77,700 for a one- to two-person households and $89,335 for a household of three or more to $76,700 and $88,205.

The Commission also adjusted income limits for NDHFA’s Start and HomeAccess programs. Start is a down payment assistance program; HomeAccess is a loan program targeted to disabled, elderly, veteran and single-parent households.

The income limits for NDHFA’s HomeKey loan program, which serves very low-income households, are set at 50 percent of the FirstHome limits. The limits for the North Dakota Roots program, a homeownership incentive program targeted to new and returning North Dakotans, are set at 140 percent of federal median income limits.

Last year, 64 percent of the agency’s first-time homebuyers received down payment and/or closing cost assistance. The average FirstHome program loan last year was $136,779. The average borrower’s household income was $52,398.

The purchase price limit for the Agency’s homebuyer programs, excepting North Dakota Roots, is $250,000. The maximum North Dakota Roots loan amount must comply with the current Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conforming loan amount or the limits of the applicable loan insurer/guarantor.

For more information on the Agency’s homeownership programs, contact an NDHFA participating lender. Information is also available online at www.ndhfa.org.

A self-supporting state agency, NDHFA helps low- to moderate-income North Dakotans by offering homebuyer education, down payment and closing cost assistance, and affordable mortgage loans programs.