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Census: Rent prices for Grand Forks going up, 50 percent of residents are renters

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About half of the people who live in the Grand Forks area are renters, and rent prices are on the rise, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

Still, workers in Grand Forks have some of the shortest commute times in the country, according to recently released figures.

Residents who rented in the Grand Forks metropolitan area between 2012 through 2016 were paying more than renters from 2007 to 2011, according to the American Community Survey's five-year estimates released Thursday. The median rent for 2012-16 was $757 for the city, an increase of $76.

That's a bigger jump than the rise in U.S. median rent over the same period. The national median rose by $21, to $949 a month.

North Dakota's median rent for the 2012-16 period was $736, or a $113 difference from 2007-11.

Ward, Williams and McKenzie counties had some of the highest jumps in price in North Dakota from the 2007-11 data to the 2012-16 numbers—the increases were $295, $310 and $397, respectively.

Minnesota's 2012-16 median rent was $873, up from $835 for 2007-11. Polk County went from $616 for 2007-11 to $663 for 2012-16.

The Census Bureau releases five-year estimates based on data collected from across the country. The five-year estimates tend to give a better sense of trends over time since the bureau uses data from five years instead of one, said Kevin Iverson, North Dakota's Census Office manager.

"It's not a point-in-time survey. It's a period survey," he said. "It's an average over that five-year horizon."

About 50 percent of the housing units in Grand Forks County were occupied by renters according to the 2012-16 data, which is high, Iverson noted. Cass County was 48 percent.

"I think you are second only to Sioux County," he said of Grand Forks County.

The Grand Forks metro has a lower percentage of renters—43 percent. But that's still high compared to the national and statewide rates of 36 percent. About 29 percent of Minnesotans and 27 percent of the people who live in Polk County rent, according to the Census data.

Grand Forks County is young, and Grand Forks has a higher concentration of college students who rent compared to other metro areas, Iverson said.

About 42 percent of renters in the Grand Forks metro used 35 percent or more of their income to pay for their gross rent, which includes rent plus estimated average monthly costs for utilities.

That's on par with averages in the U.S., Minnesota and Polk County. But they are higher than North Dakota's rate, with 31 percent of the renters in the state using 35 percent or more income for rent.

Short commute

Workers on average commute 15.5 minutes to their jobs in the Grand Forks metropolitan area, according to other new census data released Thursday. Grand Forks tied with the metropolitan areas of Walla Walla, Wash., and Great Falls, Mont., for the shortest average one-way travel times in the country.

"The shortest average one-way travel times are usually associated with smaller metro areas," the U.S. Census said in its news release.

Fargo's average commute time to work was almost 17 minutes, Bismarck, Williston and Dickinson had a one-way travel time of about 18 minutes. The Jamestown, N.D., micropolitan area's commute time was about 14 minutes.

A metropolitan area includes a city with 50,000 or more residents. A micropolitan area has a population between 10,000 and 50,000.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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