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LSS to build new 124-unit housing project in Watford

Posted 8/22/12 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Investing in Watford City is an investment in the future. At least, that’s what Jessica Thomasson of Lutheran Social Services (LSS) states is the organization’s reasoning behind their new mixed income housing project in Watford City.
“People gravitate toward Watford City to find work, services and housing,” states Thomasson. “Watford City has demonstrated time and time again a commitment to building the community and making good choices for the community. When you have that type hub, it’s important to invest in it for the future.”
This is Lutheran Social Services’ second project of its kind in Watford City. The first project opened in Watford City in 2010 with 24 low-income housing units. But this one, Prairie Heights, will be much larger.
“We’re really excited to be moving forward with this project,” states Thomasson. “We’ve used this model before. But this is a much larger scale.”
The model to which Thomasson is referring is a neighborhood that offers a range of housing options for people of diverse incomes.
“We want to ensure that there will be homes for workers earning modest incomes along with homes for those whose employment generates a higher income,” states Thomasson. “In addition, we try to design units that are welcoming to older adults on fixed incomes because they oftentimes need an accessible, affordable home to continue to live independently in the community of their choice.”
According to Thomasson, MBI Energy Services donated the land for the Prairie Heights housing complex, which is located just west of The Watford Hotel. Additionally, LSS received two North Dakota Housing Initiative Grants totalling $1 million each and has requested the ability to issue an $11 million bond from the City of Watford City.
And since Thomasson states the total project cost is roughly $16 million, these grants and donations, along with additional funding measures, will help keep the housing affordable, which is LSS’s goal.
“We really try to keep a tight budget so that we can keep the unit rates affordable for tenants and the community,” states Thomasson.
LSS hopes the mixed income project will create housing that is affordable to tenants of varying income ranges. Of the 124 units in this housing complex, Thomasson says 16 of them will be for families in the 50 percent annual median income (AMI) level and 10 units are set aside for the 140 percent annual median income (AMI) level.
In other words, families in the 50 percent median income level make $24,600 a year, or $11.83 an hour, while tenants in the 140 percent median income level can gross $68,800 a year, or $33 an hour.
“I know people would think that Watford City has oil money, so low income housing shouldn’t be an issue. But people living in the city do fall into these income categories,” Thomasson states.
According to Thomasson, the remaining 98 units will have no income restrictions and will be available to anyone, though there is a possibility  that, in the future, a portion of these units will be reserved by area businesses and organizations.
“We do not yet have contracts for any of these units, but anticipate that at least a portion will be set aside by contract,” states Thomasson.
Thomasson states that, though these figures aren’t final, LSS hopes to rent the 50 percent AMI units for roughly $400 to $675 a month, and for the 140 percent AMI units rents will range from $700 to $950 a month. The remaining units, not subject to income restrictions, will rent from $700 to $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to $950 to $1,850 for a three-bedroom apartment. They will be in an attractive neighborhood setting, complete with bike/pedestrian trails and space for a future child care center.
Thomasson hopes to be breaking ground on the project later this month.