Affording the Unaffordable

By: Chellee Unruh

Sioux Falls grows on average by 2.5% each year and is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the heartland of America. With an estimated population of more than 187,200, it is the largest city in South Dakota. Sioux Falls is the business, health care, shopping, entertainment and cultural center of the region.

With growth comes growing pains that include a shortage of housing the people can afford. There is a need for starter homes, new construction, rehabilitation of existing homes, more affordable rental units, senior housing, and the list goes on. In the past 17 years, the cost of purchasing a home has increased by 91% while the cost to rent an apartment has increased by 50%. During this same period, wages for homeowners have only increased by 50% yet wages for renters have only increased by 20%. It is estimated that one in four households are cost-burdened, defined as spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. With the cost of housing outpacing the wages, it is easy to see with Sioux Falls is a market that is moderately unaffordable for housing and is on the verge of becoming severely unaffordable.

The city of Sioux Falls is working on a (BHAG) comprehensive solution to addressing the housing crisis with four important big hairy audacious goals to guide the plan. The Housing Division of the City of Sioux Falls plans to add 1000 housing units by 2022; will establish a housing clinic by 2022, establish a housing trust fund and increasing rental registrations by 25%.

1000 Housing Units by 2022

Through the federal Housing and Urban Development, the City of Sioux Falls receives $1.5 million in community development block grant and HOME funds for the creation and preservation of housing and housing support services.  Using the Harvard Bloomberg Performance Management Model, the Housing Division of Sioux Falls has started a new action team called HousingStat. Members of the housing staff and employees across departments of the city are using data to drive the decision of how to leverage federal and local funding to reach the goal of creating 1000 housing units by 2022.  Upon analyzing the data, the group has already made some big programmatic changes including re-targeting development dollars, helping people transition out of mobile homes and reinvesting dollars away from underutilized programs.  

Housing Clinic by 2022

 A study conducted by Augustana Research Institute in 2016 commissioned by Sioux Fall Thrive found that Sioux Falls is a community that is program rich but system poor. This makes accessing housing services very challenging and contributes to our growing number of individuals that are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Housing Clinic would create a single entry into housing services. Residents in need would be able to work with a housing navigator to connect them to the right housing services in a shorter amount of time. The eventual goal is to develop an online platform where people can get a real-time view of what housing is available in Sioux Falls.  Creating this online tool will help us to reach our goal of increasing rental registrations by 2022.

Housing Fund

To make the goal of 1000 housing units and a housing clinic a reality, it will take additional resources than what is currently available. The Housing Division will be looking at creating a Housing Fund with a sustainable funding stream that would be used to incentivize the development of affordable housing and broaden the access to needed housing services.

Chellee Unruh has served as the City of Sioux Falls’ Housing Manager since March of 2019. She is responsible for finding creative solutions and long term planning to help working families in Sioux Falls live in safe, clean and affordable homes.  She earned her Business Administration Associates Degree at Southeast Tech, advanced her education by attending the University of Sioux Falls for her undergrad in Business Management and earned her Executive Masters in Public Administration at the University of South Dakota.

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