Noem, Senate leadership trade barbs over $200M housing bill

Governor Kristi Noem says that if lawmakers had passed a housing bill in either of the past two sessions the way she wanted, they could have avoided the delays that the state is currently facing.
(Nick Nelson)
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 7:41 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PIERRE, S.D. - Construction season is ramping up, but many developers are awaiting promised help from the state.

For the second year in a row, $200 million dollars for “workforce housing” won’t be spent, and political leaders in Pierre are at odds over who is to blame for that money not going out.

During the 2023 state legislative session, lawmakers passed SB 41, which provided clean-up language to a bill from the 2022 session. Both bills were intended to get the millions of dollars in grants and loans out the door, to construction companies across the state.

But after the South Dakota Housing Development Authority (SDHDA) revealed earlier this month that applications for the money would not be ready in time for this construction season, Senate leadership and Governor Kristi Noem began casting blame for the debacle.

Noem weighed in on the matter Tuesday during a bill signing event.

“It would have been out the door and we would have had houses standing right now if we had done it the way I wanted,” Noem explained. Noem originally preferred that the program run through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) instead of SDHDA. “Those houses would be built, and families would be living in them, because it would have been out a year and a half ago.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) responded Wednesday, pointing out that Noem signed both the 2022 and 2023 bills into law.

Furthermore, Schoenbeck and Majority Leader Casey Crabtree (R-Madison) allege that Noem signed off on the 2023 version of the bill prior to the start of session this year.

“She has done everything she could to stop housing infrastructure from being built with this money,” Schoenbeck said. “They said they were good with the bill, we made no secret about what we did. We got it introduced and passed, it is the exact same bill that they originally saw and signed off on.”

And while lawmakers and Noem feud about who is to blame over the delay in funds, it has prevented developers across the state from putting shovels into the ground.

“This just delays our economic growth opportunities,” said Michael Bockorny, President of the Economic Development Professionals Association of South Dakota. “It is really simple, people aren’t going to move here. We know we need people to move here because we have well over 20,000 jobs available, and we don’t have 20,000 people in the state looking for those. We need to continue to be an in-migration state, like we have been in the past.”