Tackling Top Issues – Housing Availability

If You Build It, Will They Come? Tackling Housing Challenges to Support Regional Growth

Our region is poised for tremendous growth in 2024 and beyond. Primary-sector companies are optimistic with plans for expansions, with nearly 100 primary sector companies indicating growth opportunities in the next 18 months.

Our role (as an organization charged with supporting those primary sector companies) is, in part, to remove barriers to that success.  

One critical challenge facing our region, and regions across North Dakota and Minnesota, is the ability to provide the level of housing necessary to support the thousands of people we are actively recruiting to fill more than 7,000 current open positions. Based on recent projections, our market will need more than 16,000 new housing units to support growth in the next decade (Regional Housing Study). 

In the Fargo-Moorhead metro, for example, the fourth leading factor impacting attraction and retention of employees is housing, according to a regional housing study published this past summer. Additionally, this study reveals that less than 20% of renters and 50% of all residents can afford the average FM area home value of $274,000. 

The regional economy has added 23,000 jobs over the last ten years and is estimated to add another 9,400 by 2027. 

Lack of adequate housing plagues many of our communities, and not just in our region. For example, several national industrial firms have indicated a strong interest in local expansions in North Dakota communities creating hundreds of new jobs that would attract new employees/citizens. However, an inadequate stock of local housing is currently preventing some of these plans from moving forward. A recent housing study done in one community estimates a need for 1,000 new homes in the next five years. The same story is repeated in many towns along the Red River Valley. 

The GFMEDC is working with state leaders, regional economic development leaders across the state and companies to find ways to overcome the challenge. 

“Late last year, we had the opportunity to facilitate a conversation between company, state and community leaders in several markets to bring attention to the opportunity of addressing our housing issue to spur economic development,” stated Joe Raso, President & CEO, GFMEDC.  

These conversations led to us reaching out and receiving support from nearly thirty major employers in the greater Fargo region to communicate to North Dakota Commerce Commissioner, Josh Teigen, and legislative leaders, our desire to partner on solutions.  This effort is supporting Commissioner Teigen and his team at Commerce to reach out to legislators, the Housing Finance Agency, BND and others, and we look forward to working with all parties on finding real solutions. 

While we understand these are complex issues that require thoughtful and nuanced solutions, our organization is gathering data, making connections and collaborating to support approaches to provide some relief. Thus far, conversations have focused on increasing funding for affordable workforce housing programs, implementing policies to incentivize development, and modification of architectural design requirements, are just a few examples. 

Earlier this year, Joe Raso met with local legislative leaders from the rural areas of Cass County, along with economic development leaders from Casselton, Hillsboro, MinnKota Power Cooperative and others to reiterate the need to address this important issue. And, just last month, EDC, FMWF Chamber, MetroCOG and BIA (former HBA), staff met to discuss how to move forward the recommendations of the Regional Housing Study. 

Housing is an issue that requires a focused public and private sector effort, and we look forward to supporting solutions that will support primary-sector companies’ growth and add to the region’s economic vibrancy. 

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