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How is Shutdown Affecting Housing in North Dakota?

Furloughs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development are making it harder to get out information about government-assisted housing. (Kjetil Ree/Wikimedia Commons)
Furloughs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development are making it harder to get out information about government-assisted housing. (Kjetil Ree/Wikimedia Commons)
January 24, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota tenants in government-assisted housing are growing more nervous as the federal government shutdown drags on.

But legal and housing experts in the state are encouraging folks to stay calm.

Breezy Schmidt, managing attorney with Legal Services of North Dakota, says with a few potential exceptions, North Dakotans who receive help with housing are safe and that tenants who experience something like a rent increase should contact her organization for legal advice.

"They need to calm down and they need to understand that most programs are going to be funded at a minimum through the end of January and some through the end of February, and so they need to just continue to do what they already do, which is pay their portion of the rent," she explains.

Schmidt notes that two project-based Section 8 properties in Lisbon and Strasburg might be affected because their contracts expired while the government was shut down.

Expiring contracts for Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities programs could affect two properties in Grand Forks and one in Bismarck.

Rental assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program also could be affected.

David Klein, executive director of the Great Plains Housing Authority, which serves six North Dakota counties, says this problem has become more complicated because Department of Housing and Urban Development employees are furloughed.

He and other North Dakota housing authorities are meeting on Friday to discuss plans if the shutdown continues.

Klein also encourages people to keep cool and pay their rent portions.

"The biggest thing is not to panic, not to be packing up your stuff and not worrying about trying to find a place when it is 5 degrees above outside and looking at, 'Do we have to relocate?’” he stresses. “’Do we have to rent from another person or try to combine households?' or anything like that."

Klein also says landlords should be patient and understanding because the federal government will eventually pay rents back to them.

"The portions of rent that could end up being owed are the responsibility of the federal government, not of the tenant, and because of that the tenant is not responsible for late fees or anything else,” he stresses. “They can't raise the rents on these tenants to cover that."

Klein says people can contact their local housing authority if they have more questions and adds that folks should look at their landlord-tenant rights handbook to get acquainted with their legal rights.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND