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New homes and homes still under construction sit along Sun Circle south of town near Columbia Road. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

New construction provides more options to Grand Forks’ older housing stock

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News Grand Forks,North Dakota 58203 http://www.grandforksherald.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/field/image/070514.N.GFH_.HOUSING10.jpg?itok=NLYTAcJt
Grand Forks Herald
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New construction provides more options to Grand Forks’ older housing stock
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Despite hundreds of new houses being built in Grand Forks, mainly on the south side, the city’s housing options as a whole are still older than in other major North Dakota cities — but continued growth may change that.

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With a median age of 44 years, Grand Forks’ housing stock is slightly older than that of Bismarck, Fargo and Minot, according to data from city assessors. The median age of housing in Bismarck is 34 years old, and Fargo’s is 42.

Minot’s city assessor had just the average age of the city’s housing readily available: 47. Grand Forks’ average housing age is 49.

But with more and more new homes being built in Grand Forks, the overall age of the city’s housing stock will get younger in coming years. There is continued housing development planned for south Grand Forks, and the city is working to encourage residential development to the west, Planner Andrea Laraway said.

Development in Grand Forks

Most houses built in Grand Forks the past five years have been built on the south end of town.

“That’s just where the developers have wanted to go,” Laraway said.

By far the most single-family homes were built in 2013, with 123 built, compared to 98 homes in 2012 and 64 homes in 2011.

And most planned development, both fully approved and still in the works, is for the south, she said.

But the city also wants to encourage housing development west of Interstate 29, near the new Walmart, by planning to extend infrastructure there, Laraway said.

Though more new homes are being built, Grand Forks’ housing stock is older than North Dakota’s housing stock as a whole, which has a median age between 30 and 39 years, according to data compiled online by the National Association of Home Builders.

Of the four major cities the Herald gathered data on, only Bismarck falls in that statewide range.

Part of the reason Grand Forks’ housing stock is older than Bismarck’s is the surge of construction in western North Dakota due to the oil boom, said Debra Goodsell, Bismarck city assessor. When more homes are built, a housing stock’s age decreases overall.

There were 630 single-family and townhouse units built in 2013 in Bismarck, compared to the 146 single-family and townhouse units built in Grand Forks that year, according to data provided by Goodsell and Laraway.

The oil boom has also heavily increased construction in Minot, but Bismarck had more construction in the 1990s than Minot did, which is probably why its housing stock is younger, said Kevin Ternes, Minot city assessor.

Although Grand Forks’ housing boom is less than in western North Dakota, it is still substantial, with 518 single-family and townhouse units built since 2009.

More needed

No matter which direction the development continues, homebuyers just need more choices in Grand Forks, said Weezie Potter, president of the Grand Forks Association of Realtors and real estate agent at Greenberg Realty.

“We certainly don’t have enough options,” she said. “Anything we get will be helpful.”

And although Potter said each homebuyer has different preferences, one trend she sees in Grand Forks is that people don’t want to have to fix up their new home.

The city’s older-than-average housing stock includes old homes that have been kept up well, Potter said, and many of the new houses on the market also fulfill that preference.

But overall, “It’s just not enough,” she said. “We just need more housing.”

Oldest house in Grand Forks

While Grand Forks’ housing stock is slightly older than in other major North Dakota cities, Grand Forks also has the oldest documented house.

Compared to Fargo, Bismarck and Minot, Grand Forks has the oldest house on the books, at an age of 143 years old, at 1408 University Ave., according to city assessors.

The oldest house in Fargo is 135, in Bismarck it’s 117, and in Minot it’s 127.

City assessors from both Bismarck and Minot said it is difficult to judge age based on very old records dating back to the 1800s. Debra Goodsell, city assessor for Bismarck, added that she knows the city has houses older than 117, but they are undocumented.

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Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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