Affordable Homes May Soon See a Resurgence in Moorhead

Twin homes in Minnesota no longer require the costly instillation of a sprinkler system

MOORHEAD, Minn. — New legislation signed by Governor Dayton means good news for twin homes in Moorhead.

It was an issue which some builders say caused them to lose buyers to North Dakota.

It’s a change which could save new home buyers in Moorhead up to $10,000.

“You take $10,000 off, that might mean the difference between a sale and not having a sale,” said Bill Burton, a foreman for Dirt Dynamics.

Twin homes no longer require a sprinkler system, a costly part of construction.

When the sprinkler law was first enacted in 2015, it had an immediate impact on construction.

“It effectively took what was sort of a booming market over here and brought it down to two or three homes a year being built in 2016,” said Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams.

Some Moorhead city officials say not having a sprinkler system doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sacrificing safety for affordability.

“Twin homes currently per code have to have two firewalls that go from the ground all the way up to the roof system which makes them very safe,” said Tom Spaeth with the F-M Home Builders Association. “They also have the interconnected smoke alarms.”

Builders said having a sprinkler can help save money in the long run.

“They sometimes lower your [insurance] rates a little bit if there are sprinkler systems,” said Burton. “But I don’t think it can ever offset the initial cost of the installation of the sprinkler system.”

With change comes time.

Builders said Moorhead home buyers won’t see the surge in these affordable homes for another couple years since fewer twin home lots are available.

“There’s not a lot of twin home lots left,” said Daniel Parrow, owner of ISR Homes. “So a few years ago, these twin home lots were absorbed by the contractors built before the requirement. Now those lots just aren’t there.”

“This really puts Moorhead on an even playing field with its neighbor across the river,” said Spaeth. “It helps tremendously. They continue to build twin homes in North Dakota this whole time.”

Workforce families could have more home options in Moorhead and the city itself may see a boost in their economy: a change which benefits both sides.

Before the sprinkler law was enacted, Moorhead had 48 twin home permits in 2015.

After it passed, there were only four permits in 2016.

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