February 10, 2010

City continues to struggle with housing issues

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Housing continues to be a struggle for Watford City . However, with two new housing projects ready for occupants and a third project getting underway this month, it appears that things should be getting better soon.
“We are still really short on rental units for individuals and families,” says Gene Veeder, Watford City Job Development Authority. “We’ve put a dent in the housing need, but we aren’t even close to solving the problem.”
While many people live in campers or other temporary housing, Lutheran Social Services (LSS) has 12 new rental units sitting empty.
“We only have half of our units filled, and it’s frustrating because we know there are people out there who need housing,” says Jessica Thomasson, LSS Housing, Inc. director. “We started putting names on our waiting list before the units were even finished, and soon we had 80 names on the list. We wanted to make sure and be fair to those people who got their names on the list first, so we were sending out two applications at a time, and then waiting to see if we heard back. The mail really adds to our lag time, so we started sending the applications out in batches.”
According to Thomasson, while they have been sending out applications to many people who found housing before the units were ready, they continue to receive at least two calls a week from people looking for housing.
“By the end of this week we will have contacted everyone who had previously put their name on our list,” adds Thomasson. “So now, we will just keep screening applicants until the units are full.”
In addition to the LSS rental units, Cascade Homes of Bozeman, Mont. will be putting four new town homes up for sale next week.
“We had a project in Williston that we needed to complete, so the Watford project was put on hold,” states John Dunlap, Cascade Homes CEO. “As of now, all of the homes are ready for occupancy, and we plan to put four of the eight homes on the market next week.”
According to Dunlap, the company plans to keep two of the homes for its housing needs and use the other two as extended stay rentals.
“The rentals won’t be like an ordinary rental unit,” adds Dunlap. “These are going to be completely furnished rental units. The idea is that they will be rented by people living here temporarily for work.”
Cascade Homes plans to begin working on a second housing project in the next couple weeks.
“There is a real need for long-term, temporary housing in Watford City,” says Dunlap. “That is what we hope to accomplish with our second project.”
 Cascade Homes’ new project will include 24 town homes in a 12-unit building. The rental homes will be fully furnished with appliances and furniture.
According to Dunlap, the town homes will have two bedrooms plus a two-car garage and patio which will make them perfect for families planning to live here temporarily.
“There are a lot of good things happening in Watford City right now, and housing remains on the top of our list,” says Veeder. “In addition to the current projects, we have some private developers new to town that plan to do some projects of their own. I think we are really going to see things happen with housing this summer.”