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Published March 05, 2013, 09:59 AM

City Council Hears Different Point of View on Housing Crunch

Grand Forks City Councilmen heard reaction to the Blue Ribbon Housing Commission's report from a UND economist this evening. Professor and Economics Chairman David Flynn says housing prices may be getting too much attention.

Grand Forks City Councilmen heard reaction to the Blue Ribbon Housing Commission's report from a UND economist this evening. Professor and Economics Chairman David Flynn says housing prices may be getting too much attention.

City councilmen asked if there was a way to make what's being sold more affordable as a council, and while Professor Flynn says the council can only have a marginal effect, other councilmen think this report is urging developers from other areas to come build in Grand Forks.

Professor Flynn looked at the report from an economics standpoint. He says the importance based on price is too magnified.

Flynn: "High price in this case is somewhat like treating somebody who has a cough. There's something that's underlying in causing that cough."

Council President Hal Gershman added there might be a way to lower land costs by changing the size of lots. Gershman: "Coming up with some other ways, garages in the back, the old alley system..."

And Council Vice President Doug Christensen asked if there was a way the council could increase affordability. Christensen: "We can't set what you can charge for lumber, materials, I don't think we have the power to set what you can pay for help."

Professor Flynn says the council can't have a significant impact. Flynn: "I have not seen anything that says that there's a reason to intervene."

Blue Ribbon Co-Chair and councilman Dana Sande says the commission did its job by making people aware of the problem. Sande: "We made people aware that there's an issue with housing in both the quantity and affordability of housing in Grand Forks."

Councilman Gershman even noted, through the Blue Ribbon's report, developers in Fargo want to build in Grand Forks. Gershman: "...Within hours came back expressing extreme interest in housing in Grand Forks so you can say -- it's not something that's going on the shelf."

Over the next two years, 1,500 apartments and 250 single family homes are expected to be built in town. While the report is finished, council members haven't finished discussing it yet, and there will be more to come in a few weeks.

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