PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A new $200 million program for providing low-interest loans and grants to help cover the costs of infrastructure for more workforce housing in South Dakota receives a public hearing Wednesday afternoon regarding the proposed rules.
The 1 p.m. CT meeting will help shape the final version that the South Dakota Housing Development Authority’s board sends to the Legislature’s Rules Review meeting for consideration on June 13.
Wednesday’s hearing will be at the authority’s boardroom at 3060 E. Elizabeth Street in Pierre. The deadline for submitting written comments on the 17-page proposal was May 27, but people can speak at the meeting in person or testify remotely via phone or Skype.
The authority’s interim director, Chas Olson, told the board Tuesday afternoon that 10 parties sent written comments. He said most of them dealt with the proposed requirement that for-profit entities needed to apply through a non-profit entity or a local government.
Many of the comments requested that for-profit entities be allowed to directly apply, Olson said. He noted that the Legislative Research Council had also advised that for-profit entities can’t be barred. The proposed rule would be amended to reflect that according to Olson.
Another proposed rule would set different caps on amounts available per housing unit, depending on a community’s size. Some of the comments addressed that, according to Olson.
“There could be a robust discussion during the meeting tomorrow,” he told the board.
In 2021, a special committee of the Legislature studied South Dakota’s need for more workforce housing and made recommendations. Getting money onto the street took longer than expected, however.
Governor Kristi Noem proposed a package during the 2022 session that lawmakers reshaped after a long battle in the state House of Representatives. The governor signed the legislation into law but she also issued a critical letter about it.
Then the authority, whose director is a governor appointee, and the authority’s directors, who are appointed by the governor, chose to not distribute the money because of points that the governor had raised in the letter.
Instead, the Legislature returned and passed a new version during the 2023 session that kept the amount at $200 million but now had the governor’s blessing.
Meanwhile, the housing director, Lorraine Polack, resigned. Shortly after, so did the governor’s commissioner of economic development, Steve Westra. The housing authority, while technically independent, is attached to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.