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HAMBURG: Rapid City housing lost a friend, but vital work continues

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David Lust’s charisma and outgoing personality helped him make countless friends but unknown to much of the public, housing in Rapid City also lost a “friend” the day he passed away.

David was the lead consultant for the Black Hills Area Community Foundation’s Strategic Housing Initiative. Through this work the Strategic Housing Trust Fund and its multi-stakeholder advisory group were formed, creating an innovative new tool to address our region’s housing crisis. The Rapid City Strategic Housing Trust Fund will have an impact that will last for generations. That’s why it is so fitting that he posthumously received the South Dakota Housing Authority’s Friend of Housing Award this past week.

At the awards ceremony in Pierre last Thursday, Lorraine Polak, Executive Director of the South Dakota Housing Development Authority presented the Friend of Housing Award. Rebecca Lust, David’s wife, accepted the award on behalf of her belated husband and spoke eloquently of his passion to address the housing needs for our state and our Black Hills region.

Created in 2020 with David’s help, the Strategic Housing Trust Fund is housed at the Black Hills Area Community Foundation, takes a long-term approach to housing issues by providing incentives through a revolving loan fund for developments that create housing with rents in the $500 to $1,000 range.

A 2018 study commissioned by the John T. Vucurevich Foundation showed that the workforce housing needs in Rapid City called for an extra 3,500 housing units costing less than $900 and nearly 1,500 rental units costing no more than $500 a month were needed at that time. Over the three years, the situation has only become even more dire.

This new tool is both innovative and agile; strategic but also flexible. Perhaps most importantly, it has local people making the decisions that are best for Rapid City.

Because the fund sits outside of a government entity, we can leverage philanthropic dollars and well as public funding for this cause. David believed Rapid City could be a model for other communities across the state to follow but tweak to best fits their needs.

Talk with most business leaders across Rapid City and you will hear stories of open positions they can’t fill despite having great candidates because those people can’t find places to live affordably. That means fewer nurses, teachers, policeman and lineman living and working here and helping contribute to our economy. Housing is the foundation of a vibrant economy, without it increased wages, benefits or other amenities will not reliably entice good workers to our region.

The Strategic Housing Trust Fund is governed by an advisory board of city, business and nonprofit leaders that make decisions on gap financing, loan guarantees, infrastructure projects and other types of solutions to help alleviate this crisis.

But the housing trust fund won’t reach its potential without a significant investment. Philanthropic dollars have already flowed in for this effort but without public support from the city, county and state, the initiative won’t be able to move as quickly or have as large of impact.

David knew our economic growth will have significant challenges if we don’t find new solutions for these very real housing needs. While we can never replace a person like David, we are steadfast to continue the work he started as a friend of housing in Rapid City.

Liz Hamburg is the CEO Black Hills Area Community Foundation.

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