N.D. CU talks housing shortage with HUD's Castro, Sen. Heitkamp

October 24, 2014

BELCOURT, N.D. (10/27/14)--Credit unions were represented last week at housing summits in North Dakota that addressed affordable housing concerns in the state.  

Click to view larger imageDarwin Brokke, president/CEO of Citizen's Community CU, Devils Lake, N.D., with $156 million in assets, represented the Credit Union Association of Dakotas last week during a housing summit hosted by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). (Credit Union Association of the Dakotas Photo)

The summits were hosted by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and included U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Representing the Credit Union Association of Dakotas in the dialogue was Darwin Brokke, president/CEO of Citizen's Community CU, Devils Lake, N.D., with $156 million in assets (The Memo Oct. 24).

A high volume of new residents and workers in the state's oil-rich regions have created housing shortages--and high housing costs--in some areas of North Dakota.

Thousands of workers have moved to North Dakota to fill high-paying jobs in the oil industry, which has created a housing shortage. Evidence of that came to light during the summer when Williston, N.D., was listed as having the highest rent costs in the country. Reports surfaced that new residents can expect to pay more than $2,000 per month for a new one-bedroom apartment near the oil fields.

However, the affordable housing issue isn't limited to the state's oil regions. On Wednesday, Heitkamp reached out to North Dakota credit unions for a summit with Castro in Belcourt, N.D., on the Turtle Mountain Reservation where affordable housing issues have been on the forefront for many years.

"The majority of the meeting was taken up with the various tribes discussing the shortage of housing, the need for funds to repair housing and the fact that the government sequestration has reduced what they have had to work with to get these repairs made," Brokke said. "There were stories of up to 21 people living in one home. Another person who had a job living in a tent."

Castro said he visited the state to listen to the issues and concerns about the crisis here and bring his findings back to Washington to conduct further analysis and studies.

"Unfortunately there was not enough time for everyone to share their stories, but I know that Citizens Community CU is working on helping our members solve some of the problem through our various home ownership programs," Brokke said. "The tribes do have more immediate needs that hopefully HUD can address, but in a year I think we will prove that we can make a difference."

Also, Castro and Heitkamp announced the approval of HUD's emergency waiver program for fair market rents in nine North Dakota counties.

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