In order to keep the American Dream of homeownership obtainable in South Dakota, more affordable housing is needed to allow for entry into the housing market, especially for first-time homebuyers, a group of experts said in a News Watch panel discussion held Dec. 15, 2022.
A NEWS WATCH SPECIAL REPORT: Is the American Dream of homeownership fading in South Dakota? While that is open to debate, a combination of several economic and market factors has added volatility and uncertainty to the typically stable South Dakota real estate market and unquestionably made it harder for many South Dakota residents to obtain homeownership.
The sometimes stormy relationship between Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and the GOP-led Legislature has led to the delay of implementation of a $200 million infrastructure loan and grant program that was intended to help developers quickly build new workforce housing that is a critical need for the success of the South Dakota economy. An entire annual construction season was lost due to the delay of the program, which will now need compromise legislation in the 2023 session in order to launch.
South Dakota and other states have returned millions of dollars of unused pandemic housing assistance funds to the federal treasury because they were not allocating them fast enough to landlords or due to lack of applications. State housing officials say they received more money than needed and overall have done well in distributing funds to enable renters to stay in housing and to help landlords remain solvent.
The COVID-19 pandemic surely dampened the mood of many South Dakotans, but some economists point to long-term financial hardships and historically low wages for workers as the principal reasons that some residents expressed pessimism for the future in a recent poll conducted by South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota.
Some South Dakota residents are being denied the dream of homeownership due to skyrocketing housing prices driven by a rush of out-of-state buyers with more purchasing power and low inventory of affordable homes. Meanwhile, the seller's market in South Dakota is pushing rental rates higher, further straining the ability of low- and middle-income residents to improve their living conditions or obtain the long-range benefits of home ownership.
Home sales and prices are up in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and elsewhere in South Dakota, driven by what realtors say is a rise in relocations to the state by out-of-state residents seeking lower taxes, more home for their money, wide-open spaces and freedom from restrictions related to COVID-19 imposed by other states.
Unemployment and other financial challenges have pushed an increasing number of South Dakotans who rent homes or apartments to the brink of eviction, with many turning to government assistance or charities to get money for rent. Experts worry that as some government benefits dry up and charitable resources run out, even more renters may soon be at risk of losing stable housing.
The state is near the bottom in the nation for average pay and South Dakota's employment base is dominated by low-wage support service jobs. Lawmakers eye expanding education offerings. Gov. Kristi Noem pledges to identify new opportunities to generate better jobs.
Rents are rising faster than wages in South Dakota, forcing many residents to pay an excessive share of their income on housing. That leaves families with less to spend on health care, food and other needs.
Support Nonprofit Investigative Journalism in South Dakota
South Dakota News Watch is funded by contributions from readers like you. All content is shared, free of charge, with media outlets across the state. To support our public service journalism, please consider making a contribution today.