PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A Senate panel gave its endorsement Thursday to $200 million of loans and grants for housing infrastructure in South Dakota.

The Senate Commerce and Energy Committee endorsed it 8-1. The legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

The Legislature approved a somewhat similar measure last year that Governor Kristi Noem signed into law but raised questions about whether it was correctly written.

But the South Dakota Housing Development Authority chose to not disburse the money. The various sides came together to write new legislation for this year.

Senate Republican leader Casey Crabtree of Madison brought the new version.

“We have a drastic shortage of workers,” Crabtree told the committee. He noted that South Dakota has 23,000 job openings. “To get more workers, we need more housing,” he said.

The legislation calls for $50 million of federal ARPA funds and $150 million of general funds. “I am excited about the long-standing impact of this bill,” Crabtree said.

Representative Roger Chase, a Huron Republican, chaired the interim study two years ago that led to last year’s bill. He’s been a real-estate broker for more than 30 years. “My biggest concern is we lost a construction season. We don’t want to lose another construction season,” he said. 

The governor’s policy director, Rachel Oglesby, testified in favor. “We think it makes good changes to the program and we look forward to seeing these dollars go out the door as quickly as possible,” she said. 

The legislation was supported Thursday by lobbyists for South Dakota Bankers Association, South Dakota Association of Realtors, Brookings Economic Development Corporation, Missouri River Energy Services, South Dakota Economic Development Professionals Association, South Dakota Municipal League, Independent Community Bankers, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, NorthWestern Energy, South Dakota Homebuilders Association, South Dakota Retailers Association, South Dakota Manufactured Housing Association, South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems, Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors’ two South Dakota chapters, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Randall Community Water, Elevate Rapid City, AARP, Avera, South Dakota Rural Electric Association, Deadwood-Lead Economic Development Corporation, Homes For South Dakota and several other groups.

“Our communities in South Dakota are clamoring for this money to be available,” South Dakota Municipal League executive director David Reiss told the committee. 

No opponent testified against it. The ‘no’ vote came from Senator Arch Beal, a Sioux Falls Republican.

Chase said his hope is the money can be circulating this spring. One of the committee’s senators, Steve Kolbeck, a Brandon Republican, had served on the South Dakota Housing Development Authority board of directors for a decade. He said there were problems with the law that led the authority to decide against using the money last year.

“I have a one-hundred percent confidence in the South Dakota Housing Authority,” Kolbeck said.

Senate Democrat leader Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls said the money was “just a first step” in addressing South Dakota’s need for more workforce housing. He said the shortage reflects a good situation because people want to move to South Dakota. “It’s a lot better than being in a state where people are leaving,” he said.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican, recalled receiving a call from the governor February 16, 2021, suggesting the Legislature do something on housing. As chair of the Legislature’s Executive Board last year, he tried to convince the housing authority that the money could be used. He said the new legislation shows “in a weird way” how the lawmaking process should work.