February 27, 2019


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

There is no denying the fact that the lack of affordable single-family homes is the single greatest challenge facing Watford City, Arnegard and Alexander. Without the construction of new homes that meet the FHA’s loan limit of $315,000 in McKenzie County, these three cities are at a complete standstill when it comes to meeting the housing needs of the hundreds of families who are in the market for a place to live.
One only has to look at the housing issue in Watford City, which is estimated to have a population in excess of 8,000 people, to understand the problem. With only a handful of homes available under the $350,000 price range, people who want to own their own home don’t have many options. They can either buy older, run-down homes that are below $315,000 and then spend more money fixing them up. Or they are forced to spend well over $350,000, which is above the FHA loan limit, to find housing.
While there have been some new homes built in Watford City in the past, because of the cost of land and installing infrastructure, almost all of those home prices have been far more than most first-time home buyers could afford.
Finding conventional solutions to bring affordable single-family homes to the market has so far evaded city and county leaders. Which is why the McKenzie County Commissioners are stepping outside the box and considering offering a financial incentive to help get new home construction jump-started in Watford City, Arnegard and Alexander and to help home buyers meet the FHA loan limit.
As being considered by the county, the board is willing to help homeowners meet the $315,000 loan limit by offering up to $50,000 as a five-year forgivable loan to help pay for the costs of installing water and sewer, street, curb, gutters and sidewalks that are associated with the price of a new stick-built home in those three cities.
The county should be commended for being willing to take this step in order to help get families out of apartments and into new homes. It is a move, that if finally approved, could be the sign to developers that there is a pent-up demand for new homes in this price range. And if they build the homes, they will be sold as fast as they are built.
It has taken the county commissioners to think outside the box when it comes to addressing the critical housing shortage that Watford City, Arnegard and Alexander are facing.
Without new single-family housing, these three cities cannot attract new teachers, oil field workers or anyone else wanting to bring their families to this area.