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Collaboration is paramount, systems and data can guide the work, but failure and subsequent adaptability will be the best tool in helping Rapid City, Pennington County and the outlying areas address the issue of affordable housing.

That was the message Wednesday afternoon in the King Center on the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus from Rolf Pendall, Ph.D., co-director of the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. He spoke to a gathering of state legislators, Mayor Steve Allender, city council members, staffers, and area developers and builders.

Using data from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, U.S. Census Bureau and the Urban Institute’s own studies, Pendall projected the future housing needs of the area as baby boomers retire, demographics shift, and the desire for homeownership wanes, or is at least delayed, among the younger populations.

By 2035, the number of homes owned by people 65 years old and over will near the number owned by those between 35 and 64 years old, Pendall noted. As the elderly and youth populations grow and opt for rental units, demand for apartments will increase. And while people will live in their dwellings longer, the area housing stock will need improvements, as almost 25 percent of today’s housing stock was built before 1960.

As the white population stagnates, Pendall continued, the Native American and Hispanic population — generally younger and poorer than the white population — will continue to represent a larger and larger share of the overall population, creating its own set of challenges.

Data and projections can help provide insight into the challenges the area will face in the future but, Pendall made clear, the answer lies less in successful systems and programs elsewhere and more in how area housing stakeholders adapt to the inevitable failures and changes it will experience.

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He did offer a few pointers, though, such as converting old homes into two- or three-unit rental buildings and deepening a commitment to housing and services to the most vulnerable segments of the population.

There is no algorithm where the area’s data can simply be plugged in and out sprouts a solution. But with the continued collaboration and communication of issues and ideas between local housing stakeholders, answers — Pendall confidently declared — will come.

Contact Samuel Blackstone at

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City Reporter

City reporter for the Rapid City Journal.