South Dakota communities have until this Friday, August 18, to get in line for grants from the state’s new “Bulldoze, Build, and Beautify” program. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development is offering one million dollars of federal money (you don’t think South Dakota’s going to pay for a new program like this on its own dime, do you?) to help towns, counties, economic development corporations, and others knock down and replace houses and apartment buildings that are too rundown to renovate.
To use BBB money, a local entity must own the blighted property, match the grant one-to-one (in-kind contributions count), and replace the wrecked dwelling within two years with an affordable house. “Affordable” is defined either by the general wage level for the community or a specific wage for a specific job at a specific business in town. GOED told the Legislature’s interim workforce housing study group that covering demolition, hauling, dumping, digging, filling, and black dirt with government money could knock $17,150 off the cost of building a home on a currently blighted lot. If we take $115.76 per square foot as a basic construction cost, a 1,200-square-foot house would cost about $139,000 to build; the BBB money would knock about 12% off that price.
Recall that last week, I calculated that South Dakota’s average wage, adjusted for regional price parity, is 14% lower than the national average. So South Dakota employers could make new homes just as affordable for far more workers by raising wages to give our workers the same purchasing power as the national average.
The document due Friday is just the “Intent to Apply” package. GOED will review those initial apps and invite communities with good plans to complete full applications starting August 28. Communities can boost their chances of getting an invite by proposing to knock down more houses.
But don’t wait until next year: if Donald Trump has his way, GOED’s Bulldoze, Build, and Beautify will be a one-time deal. GOED’s bulldozers will roll on federal Community Development Block Grants, which the Trump budget would eliminate. 63% of mayors surveyed by Politico in April said eliminating Community Development Block Grants would be “devastating“; another 27% say such a cut will be “very harmful.”