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City approves more federal money for Lutheran Social Services

City approves more federal money for Lutheran Social Services

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The Bismarck City Commission on Tuesday approved $830,000 in federal funds to help Lutheran Social Services and its partner Community Works North Dakota buy and rehabilitate the former Ruth Meiers Hospitality House.

The decision comes on the heels of commissioners deciding last month to approve $580,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development HOME program money to help the nonprofit acquire Boulevard Apartments, site of the now-closed Ruth Meiers. The approval came with the condition that the property owner pay delinquent utility payments to the city. 

The Ruth Meiers Hospitality House nonprofit last year deeded its property over to a bank to avoid foreclosure, and the board apparently dissolved. Lutheran Social Services plans to take over the property at 1100 E. Boulevard Ave. to maintain the facility's affordable housing units.

During the December meeting, some residents expressed frustration that Lutheran Social Services was back before a governing body seeking funds less than a month after requesting consent to continue resettling refugees. That request was controversial, and Burleigh County commissioners narrowly approved it.

No one from the public spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting either for or against the latest funding proposal. Commissioners did not discuss it before approving it unanimously.

Mayor Steve Bakken voted against allocating HOME program funds to Lutheran Social Services in December, citing what he said was the current property owner's pending litigation against the city over the issue in his reasons. On Tuesday, he voted in favor of allocating the $830,000, though he said he was “not a fan.”

City staff recommended the commission approve the $830,000, this time from HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Program -- authorized by Congress to “stabilize neighborhoods” and stop the decline of home values after the 2007 housing crisis. Funds must serve low- to moderate-income households. 

Money from both HUD programs is allocated through the state Department of Commerce to the city.

The city previously allocated Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to the Burleigh County Housing Authority to acquire land for Edwinton Place, a housing development for the homeless that celebrated its grand opening in November. The city also used program funds to purchase foreclosed or abandoned homes for resale, according to the recommendation.

The estimated cost for Lutheran Social Services to purchase and rehabilitate Boulevard Apartments is $11 million. Along with the recent city-approved federal funds, the nonprofit plans to fund the project with low income housing tax credits, housing incentive funds, tax-exempt bonds and grant money.

 

Reach Andy Tsubasa Field at 701-250-8264 or andy.field@bismarcktribune.com.

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