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Elliott Place affordable senior housing now open to residents in south Fargo

Elliott Place contains 84 units of affordable housing for local residents ages 55 or older. The building opened in December and is part of a concerted effort to increase affordable living options for seniors.

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Residents Deb Gunderson, Dick Miller and Brian Brown in the entryway of Elliott Place, a new affordable senior housing residence in Fargo on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — Affordable housing in the metro area took a major step forward in December with the opening of Elliott Place, a new residence catering towards low-income seniors.

After more than two years of work, new residents began moving into the 84-unit building last month, Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority CEO Chris Brungardt told The Forum during a tour of the building Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Units inside Elliott Place contain either one or two bedrooms, spread throughout four wings on three floors. One-bedroom units check in at 680-square-feet, while two-bedroom apartments are 800-square-feet.

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A one-bedroom apartment inside Elliott Place, as seen on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, features stainless steel appliances, walk-in closets and washer and dryer hook-ups. Elliott Place is a new affordable senior housing residence which opened in December at 4462 30th Ave. S. in Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Each unit meets universal design standards , which means they are built to be accessible to as broad a range of people as possible. The residences include walk–in closets, washer and dryer hook-ups, roll-in showers with fold-down benches, stainless steel appliances and unit-specific heating and cooling.

Outside each residence is a no-cost laundry room as well as communal spaces on each floor. The building also features a large first-floor dining area which can be rented out for large gatherings, an outdoor fire pit, an exercise room, a salon, a spa room and underground parking.

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Active at Home Helpers maintains an office on the first floor, and the building is staffed on weekdays with property managers and maintenance technicians. 24-hour on-call service is also available when the building is unstaffed.

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One of the amenities at Elliott Place, a new affordable senior housing residence in Fargo, is a spa as seen on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The fact that the list of amenities at Elliott Place reads like a brochure for any of the newest apartments in the metro area is entirely by design, Brungardt explained. “I personally think housing is a civil right,” he remarked. “Everyone has a right to housing and everyone has a right for it to be affordable and have the same amenities as everyone else has.”

‘People deserve it’

Brungardt began his tenure at Fargo Housing over two years ago, right when the planning for Elliott Place was in its infancy. He was there when ground was broken in 2021 and couldn’t help but beam when asked how it felt to see the building completed. “It’s incredibly satisfying,” he said.

Local residents have been equally excited about the prospect of moving in as well. Fifty-eight people currently live inside Elliott Place (which is named after Jill Elliott, who recently retired from Fargo Housing after a 44-year tenure), with 11 more ready to move in soon. Those who qualify and are interested can contact Fargo Housing to be added to a waiting list.

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Chris Brungardt, the CEO of the Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority, runs through the amenities inside one of Elliott Place's new apartment units Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Elliott Place is an affordable senior housing residence at 4462 30th Ave. S. in Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

To qualify, an individual or family must have an income that is 80% or less than the area’s prevailing median income, Brungardt explained. That figure translates to a $35,000 annual income and does not include assets such as savings accounts, he clarified.

Once qualified, residents pay 30% of their monthly income in rent. For example, an individual making $1,000 per month would pay a monthly rent of $300. The difference between the rental payment and the market value of the unit is bridged by federal Section 8 vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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A kitchen in the community gathering space at Elliott Place, a new affordable senior housing residence in Fargo. Finishing touches are still be applied to the space, which will host communal meals for Elliott Place's residents.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Brungardt noted that private developers also receive government assistance, though its typically in the form of tax increment financing or payments in lieu of taxes. “We need to have more affordable housing to find ways to do this and people deserve it,” he said.

A cyclical benefit

Individuals and families are considered to be “housing stressed,” Brungardt said, if they pay more than 30% of their monthly income towards housing costs. In North Dakota, the Housing Finance Agency reported that 69,000 households fall under that designation.

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In particular, as part of the agency’s statewide housing needs assessment, the Housing Finance Agency pointed out that the largest growing population among North Dakotans is in the 65-and-up age range. That analysis factored into Fargo Housing’s decision to build Elliott Place. “There’s such a lack of affordable housing. There’s a lack of affordable housing for all age groups, but there certainly is a lack for people 55 and older,” Brungardt said. “We’re trying to stress more and more housing for that age category.”

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A community lounge area inside Elliott Place, a new affordable senior housing residence in Fargo, is seen Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Elliott Place opened in December.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The focus on increasing affordable senior housing options has a positive effect for younger residents as well, Brungardt explained. “We also have a benefit that if we’re able to get people in that age category out of their homes — we know a lot of these are going to be starter homes or more affordable homes — then we can start that turnover and get young families into those homes and free up more of the housing stock for everyone,” he said.

That can only happen, however, if seniors have affordable alternatives. Brungardt expects that freeing up more housing would be beneficial for older neighborhoods in need of revitalizing. “Maybe you start getting young families moving back to north Fargo or wherever it might be and then you start getting students going back to Fargo North again,” he said.

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On top of that, affordable housing enables people to receive an education or enter the workforce. “If you don’t have a house, you can’t do anything. You can’t have a job, you can’t go to school, you can’t do anything,” Brungardt commented.

Up next for Fargo Housing

Brungardt highlighted two upcoming projects for Fargo Housing.

The first is the demolition of the Lashkowitz High Rise in downtown Fargo. Residents were completely moved out of that building in February 2021. Fargo Housing has secured the services of a South Carolina-based contractor who will implode the building in either July or August. A “large abatement” of asbestos will follow, bringing the demolition cost to $5 million.

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The Lashkowitz High Rise building in downtown Fargo on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The building opened in 1971 and provided affordable housing along the riverfront to Fargo seniors. It is scheduled to be imploded in July or August.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Once the high rise is torn down and the asbestos is removed, construction will begin on its replacement: a family-oriented project consisting of 100% Section 8 vouchers. It will contain 110 units of affordable housing, with one-, two- and three-bedroom residences.

Further, Fargo Housing is working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to replace a property at the intersection of 18th St. S. and 25th Ave. S. That site currently has 14 duplexes, though Brungardt said “they’re kind of in a sad physical state.”

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The duplexes will be replaced with at least 42 units, though that number could rise. “We’re going to go from 28 units of public housing to probably having 60-plus units of affordable housing,” he said.

For now, Brungardt is pleased to see Elliott Place open its doors. “When you see these people so excited about moving in here — and we had the whole gamut of income levels coming in here — some people are excited because they never had a microwave before. Even something as simple as that,” he said. “You forget how privileged many of us are.”

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Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over three years, primarily reporting on business news. He's also the host of the InForum Business Beat podcast, which can be streamed at InForum.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reach him at tevanella@forumcomm.com or by calling 701-241-5518. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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