New report finds lack of affordable housing key issue

Panelists at Concordia discuss challenges to affordable housing in FM area
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 7:30 PM CDT
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MOORHEAD, MINN. (Valley News Live) -

People are expressing concerns over the safety of Downtown Fargo after reports of violence taking place outside of the Downtown Engagement Center.

“You let somebody sleep and set up housing in an emergency exit, for the Civic Memorial Auditorium, isn’t that a fire code violation,” asks Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn.

At a Fargo City Commission meeting last week, Commissioner Dave Piepkorn essentially said, he doesn’t think places like the Downtown Engagement Center are worth the cost.

“What is the benefit to all of us, for all of us to have shelter,” asks an attendee of a panel hosted at Concordia today that discussed the lack of affordable housing and rentals.

Community leaders were asked to be on the panel to review a recent report from the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments and homelessness.

“There’s safety in having a home,” explains CEO of Churches United Paster Sue Koesterman.

In response to Piepkorn’s statements last week, Pastor Koesterman says, “If those kinds of resources went away our community would be so much more unsafe.”

She adds, “To be homeless is a very exposed, very unsafe situation and there is a lot of violence that occurs in situations where people are unsafe.”

Representative Heather Keeler, also on the panel says, “If you look at the cost of where people end up if they don’t have a home, the number one place that they end up is our emergency rooms or our jails which all- it comes back as our cost.”

The panelists say most of the people who take advantage of the resources are not criminals, they’re just people who need a little help.

“Most of our adults who are staying in shelter, work the equivelent of full time, mostly they are cobbling together multiple part time jobs or they’re doing day labor,” says Koesterman.

The report also found that 40% of all local renters are spending more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.