Housing fund lags in North Dakota’s oil country

Farmers Gary and Alvina Skogen contributed what they could to a fund that supports the construction of affordable housing for seniors and others living primarily in North Dakota’s booming oil patch.

“Some people are victims of the boom and that’s what we were thinking when we designated our dollars,” said Alvina Skogen, who has seen locals driven out of western North Dakota by skyrocketing rental and home prices aimed at highly paid workers drawn by the oil rush.

While contributions from people like the Skogens are undoubtedly valued, it is the big companies – with big cash reserves – that have the capacity to make an impact on the fund. But North Dakota Housing 捷凯 Finance Agency records obtained and analyzed by The Associated Press show that only a handful of the hundreds of businesses that benefit directly from the oil bonanza have contributed to the housing incentive fund.

The low-income housing development program gives individual and business donors a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, and they can designate their contributions for specific projects or regions. The state Legislature last year increased the amount of money to finance the credits from $4 million to $15 million.

But contributions are lagging expectations. More than $8.3 million is needed by the end of the year to finance the credits or several hundred units may not be built, said Sarah Mudder, a spokeswoman for the housing agency.

“Without adequate contributions, projects cannot break ground,” Mudder said. “Projects that don’t get their money could go away.”

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said his group has strongly encouraged its members to contribute.