Wahpeton committee supporting proposed housing fund

Recent housing summits in Richland and Wilkin counties included the invitation for communities to come up with action plans. They are asked to consider available lots for new housing, new areas to grow housing and homes for rehabilitation.

With a 3-0 vote, the Wahpeton Finance, Personnel and Economic Development Committee is recommending the city council give its support for a proposed revolving loan fund to stimulate housing rehabilitation and development within the city.

The city is proposing a partnership with Richland County, North Dakota. From that partnership would come an allocation of $1,520,000 from the F-M Diversion Settlement Agreement.

“I’m looking for a motion to pitch the idea,” Finance Director and Auditor Darcie Huwe said at a Monday, April 12 committee meeting.

The allocation, according to information shared Monday, would be used to create the revolving loan fund. The proposed fund’s purpose is to provide incentives for constructing, rehabilitating and investing in single-family homes in Wahpeton.

Thanks to a settlement between the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority and the Fargo-Diversion Authority, Richland County and Wilkin County, Minnesota, are receiving $75 million. Accumulated interest over a 33-year span is projected to increase the settlement award to approximately $96 million, Daily News previously reported.

Recent housing summits in Richland and Wilkin counties included the invitation for communities to come up with action plans. Participating locations are encouraged to consider available lots to be used for new housing, new areas to grow housing within the community and homes for rehabilitation.

Huwe and city staff put together the summary and proposal shared Monday.

“The city of Wahpeton has a successful history working with local contractors and individuals to meet the housing demands of our community,” Huwe said. “Adding Richland County to the partnership equation allows us to further leverage public-private development agreements to grow our community.”

Housing starts are trending up, Huwe and company wrote. They singled out ways to make that last:

• residential lot development — Wahpeton has entered into development agreements for residential lots at multiple price points; developments include Oakwood Court, Edgewood, Westdale and Central Properties; agreements are pending for the Prairie Flats and Homestead additions

• new home incentives — Wahpeton offers a property tax exemption up to $150,000 for the first two years of a newly-constructed single-family home; a contractor may receive a 100 percent exemption for up to two years on a new residential home

Programs have been developed to encourage reinvestment in existing housing and assist in infrastructure costs:

• home repair grants — the recently-adopted Housing Rehabilitation and Neighborhood Revitalization Grant Program creates grants or forgivable loans of up to $50,000 for low-to-moderate income homeowners; the money is available for making structural or major repairs to owner-occupied, single-family homes

• infrastructure buy downs and special assessment assistance policies — preservation of the existing housing inventory is key to affordable housing; Wahpeton is seeking to lessen the dependency on special assessments by using sales tax funds to buydown reconstruction costs and make grant funds available to low-income homeowners

“Well built, affordable housing is essential to the vitality of communities in rural America,” Wahpeton city staff wrote. “Providing individuals the opportunity to buy, build and repair a home (is a key ingredient) of every growing, thriving town.”

According to city staffers, Wahpeton has the jobs, the schools and the location for which people are looking.

“The time is right to expand the options in housing,” Huwe said.

Landowners and/or residents who want to take advantage of city programs can call the Wahpeton Community Development office at 701-642-8448.

Councilman at-large Lane Wateland remotely attended Monday’s meeting. Councilman Jason Goltz, 2nd Ward, was absent.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, April 19 at Wahpeton City Hall.

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