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AS I SEE IT

Posted 8/15/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

If you polled any number of working people in Watford City as to what two things the city most desperately needs, the answer you would more than likely get is daycare and affordable housing. Without a doubt those two items are truly the “hot button” topics whenever they come up whether it be at a public forum or among community leaders.
The reason is obvious. Without affordable housing in the community, locally-owned businesses can’t hire new employees. But neither can the city, county, the healthcare system or the school. There are very few small town business or governmental entities that can afford to shell out upward to $2,000 a month on top of the salaries that they are paying to help subsidize employee rent.
Likewise, the lack of daycare facilities in the community is crippling employers who are desperately seeking to hire new workers. While the community is seeing an increase in the number of women and young children who are moving into Watford City to join their husbands, the lack of daycare facilities is literally keeping many prospective employees out of the job market.
New families are wanting to move to  Watford City to live and work. But in many cases, the lack of affordable housing and daycare facilities is simply making it impossible for them to do so.
While it is doubtful that in the near future Watford City will see affordable housing or daycare in the quantity that is needed, there is at least some good news that progress is being made on these two critical needs; there are two projects being proposed that will be developed over the next several months.
The first housing project that seems to be almost ready to break ground is a 120-unit apartment complex by Lutheran Social Services (LSS). While LSS has stated that it is working to bring affordable housing to the community, it is a little disappointing to hear that only 16 of the units will be available to low income individuals, while the balance of the units will be rented out on a sliding scale that will reach the currently high market levels. But whether or not all of LSS’s new housing is affordable, at least there is going to be some form of rental housing other than the typical man camp variety being built in the community.
But probably the most exciting plan is for a new development that would couple 36 affordable housing units for law enforcement officers, teachers and other public service employees, along with a daycare facility that could accommodate between 150 and 200 children. Through the commitment of $1 million from the city’s Roughrider Fund, as well as two sizeable grants totalling over $639,000 from the state of North Dakota, this project has the capability of helping solve some of Watford City’s most immediate needs.
It has not been an easy task for our city and community leaders to come together with viable plans to help meet the needs for more affordable housing and daycare. But you have to give these individuals credit for sticking to their goals. And slowly, but surely, progress is being made.
 Will these two projects solve Watford City’s dire need for affordable housing or for more daycare? Most assuredly, they will not. But once they are built and in operation, we will be much better off than we were.