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Housing fund coming up short in ND oil country

James Macpherson, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Contributions are lagging for a North Dakota fund aimed at building affordable housing, primarily in the state's booming oil patch, officials said Tuesday.

The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency's 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. The Legislature last year approved $15 million in state income tax credits to subsidize construction of $104 million in low-income dwellings.

Agency director Mike Anderson said the full tax credit contributions would fund 739 new low-income units at 26 proposed housing projects. But only $11.3 million has been raised to date, and 10 projects, totaling 352 units, might not be built if the balance is not raised by the end-of-year deadline, he said.

Anderson called them "shovel-ready projects that can't break ground."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced Tuesday that WPX Energy Inc., a Tulsa, Okla.-based oil exploration and production company, contributed $100,000 toward the fund.

Jeremy Conger, WPX Energy's director of operations, said the company's contribution would go toward building affordable housing on the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota, where the population and rental rates have soared amid record production in the oil patch.

Dalrymple called WPX's contribution "a very positive announcement" during a ceremonial check presentation at the state Capitol. The governor and Stenehjem also used the event as an opportunity to solicit more contributions from individuals as businesses.

"It's an easy way to assist the housing needs in North Dakota," Stenehjem said.

Anderson, director of the housing agency, said 90 percent of the fund's donations have come from individual taxpayers. The remainder, and two-thirds of the fund's total, has come from businesses, he said.

Anderson said his agency has estimated that some 3,500 new housing units are needed annually in the oil patch to keep pace with the growing population.

Dalrymple said he's asked the Legislature to raise the tax-credit allotment to $20 million in 2013-14 and to set aside $30 million from the state's general fund for affordable housing incentives.


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