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Housing rehab improves quality of life for Pierce County residents

By Staff | Sep 6, 2019

A program launched three years ago by Souris Basin Planning Council has been providing Pierce County homeowners and renters with opportunities to improve their quality of life.

The agency’s Housing Rehabilitation Program provides assistance to low-income homeowners who need help making their dwellings energy efficient, safe and compliant with building codes.

“We started this project back in 2016, and we’ve been receiving funding from USDA Rural Development to do it,” said SBPC Executive Director Lyndsay Ulrickson. “The reason why we’ve picked Pierce County was at the time in 2016, they had the highest level of poverty in the community. We determined that with those kinds of statistics, they’d obviously have a higher need than the rest of the counties that we serve.”

Ulrickson said SBPC identified funding resources from various grant and loan programs at the state level “for apartment buildings and low-income rental units, things like that.”

“We saw a gap in funding for homeowners,” Ulrickson said. “So, that’s how we started the program.”

The SBPC team applied for and received grants from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office to fund the Pierce County program. Other agencies contributed funds from matching grants and other types of loans.

“When we initially started this, the (Rugby) JDA was a major partner for us,” Ulrickson noted. “They contributed, if memory serves me, $5,000 in matching funds if we were able to get the grant through HUD, and Ward County contributed $5,000 in matching funds, too, I believe. We talked with First District Health Unit.”

Ulrickson added, “We worked with Minot Housing Authority, which serves the Pierce County area; we kind of worked with them and other non-profits just to design the program and determine who would receive funding at the time.”

“We also worked with Community Action Partnership,” Ulrickson said. “Community Action Partnership came out and helped us with assessments to make sure the homes were liveable, and what the homeowners were asking for did they need it, or did they need more than they were asking for, or did they have less needs just to help us kick things off and get things liveable and safe after we completed what the homeowners requested. They have expertise in that as well.”

“We had some grants to qualifying low and very low-income homeowners in Pierce County with the first allocation of funding we received in 2016,” Ulrickson noted. “We applied again in 2017 for the same type of funding.”

Ulrickson said the program had $70,000 to work with when it began in 2016.

“I think we had 13 or 14 applicants,” Ulrickson recalled. “So, we had to score and rank each location so it was all dependent on need. There were some homes that we weren’t able to fund, and some that we were. I believe that first year, all of (the homeowners) paid a certain percentage. We requested financial information from all of the homeowners and verified things that way. There were also some who qualified for low-interest loans that were outside of our program but through USDA.”

2017 saw more money allocated for the housing program.

“(The amount) was right around $116,000. Then, we were able to contact some of those homeowners we previously had to say no to, and we were able to help those individuals with some funding.”

Ulrickson said the 2017 grant money is still being put to use.

“We still have a little bit of money left to grant out, so we’re utilizing our appliance replacement (program) to try to use up the remainder of that 2017 money.”

The appliance replacement program will replace appliances manufactured before 2000 for eligible homeowners based on income.

Application forms for the program may be downloaded at www.sourisbasin.org by clicking on the “Housing Rehabilitation Program” link, then the “Appliance Replacement Application” button.

A note on the application reads, “SBPC will only replace appliances built before December 2000 and funding is on a first come, first serve basis. Only low- and very low-income homeowner-occupied homes will be eligible for assistance.”

Ulrickson said SBPC noticed a new trend in housing needs in 2018.

“We also started to see a higher need with low-income rental apartments and things like that in Pierce County and across the region in our rural areas,” Ulrickson noted.

“We knew of a particular project we were in conversation with a couple of different individuals and organizations looking for funding to rehabilitate some rental apartments in Pierce County, so for our 2018 application,” Ulrickson indicated. “We identified that as the need for funding. We put out an application; we announced it in the paper; we did a radio interview as well. We only received one application for that one, but it was a significantly large project.”

“They asked for more than what we had available anyway, so they have been awarded the funds, but the project hasn’t been started yet,” Ulrickson added.

“This is a large project. It’s the Courtyard Apartments. They received all of the budgeted construction funds for 2018 for their project. They will receive it once everything gets started once they show proof of expenditures.”

“(The Courtyard Apartments) have a couple of the buildings that need new floor joists,” Ulrickson explained. “Those apartments are reserved for elderly individuals or individuals with a handicap. So, they actually receive additional funding from the state, and they also received some community block grant funds from us, because it’s a really huge, expensive project.”

“But I think it will really create a better quality of life for the folks who are living there once everything is complete,” Ulrickson said. “That one is a really great project, and we’re really excited to see it take off, and we’re really excited to see the finished product on that one.”

Ulrickson said SBPC recently received grant money for housing rehabilitation in Pierce County for 2019.

“We haven’t put out any announcements yet, because we didn’t want there to be any confusion with the appliance replacement project and then our 2019 funding, so we wanted to do those application processes separately,” Ulrickson noted.

“But what we applied for in 2019 was also for rental assistance rehab of, it can be multi-family or single family (residences).”

“We do know previously there were a couple of other people who had been talking to us about doing low-income housing in Rugby, so we’re really hopeful that they apply for this when we do put the application out and we announce for it,” Ulrickson indicated.

“The housing rehab program in Pierce County is one of our most rewarding projects that we work on here at Souris Basin, because we’re helping real people achieve real results, and give them a home that they are proud to live in that is healthy for them to live in,” Ulrickson added.

More information on housing rehabilitation help in Pierce County is available at sourisbasin.org or by contacting Emily Berg at 255-1982.

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