Letters to the Editor
Support Rural Public Transit
When we think about public transportation in North Dakota, buses in Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks quickly come to mind. Outside of these metro areas, there is a complex, almost hidden, network of public transit of over 25 providers which are vital to rural communities. In some communities, one dollar per ride allows individuals without personal transportation to access medical facilities, shopping, community centers, and job sites they would otherwise be unable to access. Rural passengers can ride to Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, or even Aberdeen to reach advanced medical care, increased shopping choices, and meet up with family or friends for just a few more dollars.
Although the majority of rural public transportation is administered by senior citizen centers, the service is available for everyone to use. In Carrington, public transit shuttles students, who are unable to drive, to and from school to places of employment. The Harvey bus transports mentally disabled individuals from their home to a vocational center for occupational training or gainful employment. Citizens in Oakes will ride to avoid missing work in the event of car troubles or unreliable personal transportation. Kidder County Transit brings people to Bismarck where they can continue onward to work in the oil fields. Residents in Cooperstown or Valley City can get to Fargo to catch a flight or visit family for the weekend.
A majority of rural cities lack any alternatives to public transit, making the system even more important to the community and people. It is no secret that rural areas are experiencing a population decline. Rural public transit allows individuals to stay in their communities instead of relocating to a larger city. Public transit allows senior citizens to remain in their homes and actively participate in their communities. Most importantly, it gives people without vehicles the ability to socialize and live their lives with minimal disruption. These systems function thanks to the hard work of small, professional, dedicated staff and volunteers who refuse to allow this essential service to disappear.
Many rural providers operate on slim budgets and must come up with new and creative ways to keep fares low, while costs continue to rise. The next time you overhear someone discuss cutting funding for rural transit, think about the following for a minute: How will that impact the elderly trying to reach the senior center for their only hot meal every day? How will the disabled, unable to drive, reach their employer for both a source of income and purpose? How will an individual without the ability to drive stay connected to their community, instead of becoming isolated? If you had no vehicle, how would you get around?
– Bryan McCoy
An opportunity to make a difference
The North Dakota Housing Incentive Fund is already making a difference in getting more housing built in the state, but additional help is needed to keep all of the worthy projects on track.
The Housing Incentive Fund or HIF is a program that supports the development of affordable rental housing. It does not receive state funding but instead offers taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions into the fund. Essentially, by contributing to HIF you may direct your state tax dollars to help build the affordable housing where it is needed the most in our state.
The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency has conditionally committed HIF funding for 26 projects in the state that will provide 739 affordable rental units. Sixteen of the projects are fully funded with HIF contributions. The remaining 10 projects in Bowman, Crosby, Devils Lake, Killdeer, Kulm, Mandan, Parshall, Ray, Watford City and Williston are in need of taxpayer contributions of approximately $4.4 million before they can break ground.
We must act now to make sure all of the projects move forward. To do so, adequate contributions into the Housing Incentive Fund must be received by December 31, 2012. Contributions received by that deadline can be claimed on your 2012 tax return and those dollars can be directed to affordable housing projects that will begin construction right away. Contributions of any size and from any taxpayer are appreciated.
Housing is one of the greatest challenges to the quality of life we have traditionally enjoyed in North Dakota. Building affordable housing is important so that every North Dakotan, whether they are waitresses, teachers, nurses, bank tellers, police officers, elderly or disabled, have a place to call home. To make affordable housing happen, North Dakota needs your support. Your contribution to the Housing Incentive Fund will make a difference and will make our communities and state stronger.
More information about the Housing Incentive Fund and the tax credits may be found online at www.NDHousingIncentiveFund.org or by calling (701) 328-8080 or toll free at (800) 292-8621.
– Michael A. Anderson
North Dakota Housing Finance Agency