As occupancies decrease, affordable housing still needed in Dickinson

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DICKINSON, N.D. - Housing vacancies continue to rise and occupancies continue to fall in southwestern North Dakota as the oil slump takes its toll.

But agencies say market prices are still not economical for low-wage earners.​

Northern Place is a new apartment complex being built in Dickinson. The complex will have 36 units, eight of which will be for low-income households.

Agencies say occupancies and waiting lists for affordable housing units have held steady in Dickinson, and there's a need for more.

"There aren't enough rents in Dickinson and across the state that are affordable at that range for somebody on social security, or maybe it's somebody on disability who's on fixed income. Or somebody who is making minimum wage," says ND Housing Finance Agency Executive Director, Jolene Kline.

Kline says what seems like a cheap-to-moderate price is still expensive for some.

"So your rents may have went from $2,500, to $1,500, to $1,000. A $1,000 is affordable to a lot more people, but it still isn't affordable to everyone," says Kline.

Metro Plains Regional Manager Elizabeth Mertes says although her company has seen a decrease in affordable housing occupancy, it is still a necessity.

"If your life circumstances change, you lose hours, your wages change, your rent is going to change to keep you in a place that is affordable," says Metro Plains Regional Manager, Elizabeth Mertes.

Staff at Community Action Partnership, a non-profit that helps those in poverty, says there is greater need with rental assistance because of decreased wages.

"There's other issues that clients face with a lot of the rules and regulations that are place upon them like background checks, credit checks, and so forth. So they have other hurdles that they need to cross at this point," says Erb Bren, Community Action Partnership, Executive Director.

Those living in low-income units pay no more than 30 percent of their gross income.