$200M housing bill squeaks by in South Dakota House
After multiple failed attempts, a bill drew enough support in the lower chamber that would add $150 million of state funding to an addition $50 million of federal funds to a housing development fund. Half the dollars will be available as grants, and 70% will go to towns with fewer than 50,000 people.
PIERRE, S.D. — The third — or fifth or sixth — time's the charm.
A hotly debated housing bill sending $200 million to a fund for loans and grants for housing infrastructure won over 48 members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 8. That is just one more vote than the constitutionally required two-thirds majority necessary for a special fund spend.
And the vote was just two more than a failed attempt last week on a similar message. But after a weekend of horse-trading and cajoling, the measure reemerged from a measure hog-housed and passed out of the Senate on Monday.
"We had a carousel of confusion the other day," said Rep. Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown. "I think these changes here address all the points [of contention]."
Last week, critics of Senate Bill 65 noted the measure failed to adequately provide grant assistance for small towns who might be unable to afford loans through the South Dakota Housing Opportunity Fund.
Supporters updated the bill to allow projects to be one-third financed through grants. The bill's sponsors also further paired back the aid going to the state's largest cities — Sioux Falls and Rapid City — from one-half to only 30%.
Still, the measure met resistance on the House floor.
"I'm just not sold on this," said Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, who said she spent the weekend hearing from mayors and county commissioners in her district in western South Dakota. "There is still this big concern in my neck of the woods ... they just can't afford the loans. I don't know how else to say it."
But on Tuesday, a number of lawmakers from rural corners and regions of the state stood up to defend the bill as meeting a dire need for housing development.
Rep. Lance Koth, R-Mitchell, told the body that many of the nine communities in his district would benefit. And he pushed back to say these towns weren't small.
"They're small," said Koth. "They don't have a Walmart. They don't have a lot of services."
But he said many young people want to move to these towns for the rural environment. And he said the Legislature should use federal funds to boost local housing efforts.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kristi Noem's desk. In a round-table with the Argus Leader on Tuesday , Noem sounded a note of hesitation on the housing bill.
"The most money we've ever given to the housing authority is $1 million," Noem said. "They're proposing $150 million."
The 2022 legislative session wraps up on Thursday. Any overrides of vetoes will be considered later this month.