News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Watch out: here comes a huge load of irony

It is carried by Joop Bollen who as director of the South Dakota Regional Center is a major figure in the disaster of Northern Beef Packers,  EB-5 loans, and the alleged suicide of Richard Bender.  As a state employee and then a contractor for the Governor's Office of Economic Development,  Bollen obtained and administered the EB-5 loans which lost millions of dollars for foreign investors. 

The city of Aberdeen has a housing authority that oversees subsidized housing for low income people.  (More on that later.)  The housing authority has initiated a proposal to add 40 units, so it needs a resolution of necessity from the city council to proceed with the plans.  To support the request for a resolution, the housing authority presented the council with the results of a study conducted in January on housing needs in Aberdeen.  The study concluded that there was a need for low income housing, but Aberdeen landlords don't think so. The city council story in the Aberdeen newspaper carried the headline:

                Landlords disagree with need for housing authority request

However, the only landlord cited specifically in the story was Joop Bollen:  Here is what the story said:
Joop Bollen who owns various properties in Aberdeen, including the Fifth Avenue Apartments, said he is concerned with the validity of the study.

“I’m very concerned that the study is skewed,” Bollen said questioning whether the study takes into account recently constructed apartments in Aberdeen and the recent closure of the beef plant.

“You should review the study and make sure it’s accurate,” Bollen said. “If you sign off on that letter, you state you’ve seen the study and feel there’s a need. My concern is whether or not there’s a real demand.” 
In addition to concerns about the study, Bollen also questioned whether it’s the city’s role to subsidize public housing.
The mayor pointed out that Aberdeen has been involved in public housing for 50 years.

The private landlords have enjoyed a landlords' market in Aberdeen for years.  With the addition of hundreds of units in recent years to provide housing for an expected influx of workers, spearheaded by the opening of the failed beef packing plant, developers have erected a number of apartment units throughout town.  There is a disparity between what the units cost and what workers make in Aberdeen.

A perennial problem in Aberdeen has been the quality and price of rental housing.  During my years at NSU, students complained constantly about off-campus housing.  Much of it was in converted residences and were tacky to the point of being shanty towns.   When I first came to NSU, students had put together a program which listed approved rental units available to students.  The units were inspected according to a checklist and, if they met the standards, were listed for student convenience.  The originators of the program had long graduated, and it was getting difficult to find student association members who would go out and conduct the inspections, so an assistant manager in the student services department was asked to recruit, train, and coordinate inspectors.  After some months of accompanying students on inspection tours, he reported at a meeting that he found many housing units that did not meet the standards and that were overpriced.  The administration decided that the program served no useful purpose if there was such a limited number of units that the university could approve, and it ended the service and decided to concentrate on upgrading resident student housing.

The matter was brought up to Democratic Party members, and we had a study committee to investigate just what the complaints were about housing.  The first aspect was that the housing was, indeed, overpriced for what was available.  We broadened our focus from student housing to include young working people, who complained just as much.  We found what has  been repeated and denied consistently over the years.  While it is a South Dakota myth that the cost of living is cheaper in the state and justifies lower wages, we found that young people simply were not paid enough to cover their housing, utilities, food, transportation, and other necessities.  Rent was a big chunk of their expenses, and many of the rental units were dreadful--rundown, makeshift, and downright depressing to be in.  

Many students, especially single parents, found help in subsidized housing, which made it affordable for them to attend college.  The real complaint that some landlords have about subsidized housing is that they may have to lower their rents to compete.  City housing makes it possible for many people to live decently, something that is of no concern to the private rental market.   The study shows that there is a 3.9 percent vacancy rate in Aberdeen.  The private landlords want to be subsidized by eliminating the competition provided by the city.  

1 comment:

caheidelberger said...

"Bollen also questioned whether it’s the city’s role to subsidize public housing."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States