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$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.

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Rep. Lance Koth, R-Mitchell, stumps Tuesday, March 8, 2022, for the hotly debated housing bill in the South Dakota House of Representatives.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service

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.

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The vote on House Bill 1033, a measure to authorize $200 million in spending on housing infrastruture across the state.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service

"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.

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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.

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House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, rests his head momentarily during debate on a housing bill on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service

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.

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"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.

Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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