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This is not the time for home owners to say "Not in my backyard" about affordable housing projects

March 27, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
There's a little too much "not in my backyard" going on in comments about where the so-called "affordable" housing projects in the city should be built.

At a time when apartment vacancies hover around zero in the Minot area, when rents are skyrocketing, pricing more and more people out of the market, it is obvious that low income housing is desperately needed. Far too many people are forced to sleep on sofas at a friend's house or live out of a car or a recreational vehicle. The flood worsened an already desperate situation.

One of my Facebook friends posted an advertisement listing a 7-bedroom house here for $10,000 a month, claiming it would be perfect for multiple oil workers. It will probably be snapped up within a few days. Oil workers might be able to afford it; the people who are still making $10 or $12 an hour can't. Salaries are not increasing along with the increase in rent and food prices in Minot.

Some of the statistics cited at an affordable housing forum hosted by the social work club at Minot State University on Monday were sobering. According to the research, somewhere around half the people in this part of the state cannot afford "fair market" rent on an apartment in western North Dakota. Someone would have work about 70 hours a week at minimum wage to afford rent.

The rent on the "affordable housing," being built with the help of various grants and programs, that has been approved would have been considered high here just a few years ago. Now up to $800 or $900 a month for a two bedroom is considered "affordable." That's still out of reach for singles or families that also have to juggle expenses like a car payment and car insurance, child care, groceries and health insurance.

Given those facts, it is irritating to see people complaining that building an affordable housing project in a particular area will ruin the neighborhood for home owners and "those people," i.e. renters, are somehow not worthy of living there. Given the changes that have taken place in Minot over the last three years, "those people" are likely to be the middle class neighbors that were raised here and have lived here all of their lives and contributed to the community. Renters are also no less likely than anyone else to be good, quiet neighbors.

Much more low income housing will need to be built and there are only a certain number of places where it can be built. No one ought to be trying to prevent it from being built in their backyard.


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