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Letter: Rural North Dakota: A place everyone can call home

Oban writes, "In partnership with lenders and alongside individuals and organizations, USDA Rural Development is strengthening communities, providing stability for families, and building

Erin Hill-Oban
Erin Oban is USDA's RD state director for North Dakota
Lea Black/Lea Black
We are part of The Trust Project.

The story of my upbringing is not unlike thousands of other North Dakotans. I grew up in a very small, rural community – Ray, North Dakota – the same hometown of my parents, in a modest house that my parents built when they were married.

That house was more than a building; it was our home, and the ability of my parents to access and afford a place of their own provided security, certainty, and satisfaction for all of us. I realize now the immense dignity they felt being able to build their family and raise their three kids within those four walls.

For countless reasons, the dream of homeownership has become increasingly difficult to reach (or keep) for too many working people, families and seniors living on fixed incomes. Rising housing costs aren’t just a factor in our largest cities. Affordability and accessibility of housing is an enormous challenge in our rural and tribal communities.

In partnership with lenders and alongside individuals and organizations, USDA Rural Development is strengthening communities, providing stability for families, and building generational wealth by helping people afford their rent or buy, repair, or build homes all across North Dakota.

USDA Rural Development offers mortgage loans with low rates and no down payment requirement for low-income residents in rural areas who wish to buy or build a home. We also support participating private lenders with loan guarantees, offering mortgage loans that may not otherwise be available. In fiscal year 2022, we celebrate with the 224 families who have accessed $43 million in investments through USDA Rural Development to obtain a home of their own.

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Additionally, if your rural home needs critical repairs that are beyond what you can afford, we offer low-interest loans as well as grants for seniors. Nationwide, 60% of our repair loan program is made to seniors that are 72 years of age or older with an average income of $14,900. If your home needs $10-40,000 in repairs, that’s a nearly impossible task without assistance to help.

We also finance nonprofits that can help with home repairs and water well replacement, and that assist individuals in building their own homes, buying down the price with their sweat equity.

And finally, for those who wish to or whose only option is to rent, rental assistance through USDA Rural Development helps rural people keep rent affordable, freeing up more income to invest in their communities. The Department is currently helping 62 North Dakotans afford their rent through rental assistance, ensuring that low-income and elderly tenants pay no more than 30% of their income in rent.

June is Homeownership Month, but our mission is year-round. Our team at USDA Rural Development is here to improve the livability in every rural and tribal community and to support rural North Dakotans at any stage of life. Equitable access to resources for safe and affordable housing ensures that, regardless of zip code or income level, there is a place that everyone can call home.

Erin Oban is North Dakota's state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency.

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