In Bismarck and Mandan, ND, the cities pay for the street, sidewalk and sewer maintenance or improvements with a loan and then the homeowner makes the loan payments over a 10 to 15 year time period through a Special Assessment district.
In a new development, the city has a big bill and the homeowner pays that bill monthly or yearly if they don't have a mortgage. Occasionally, if a homeowner isn't caring for their yards or the snow removal of the city sidewalk, the city will do the work and charge the homeowner through the Special Assessment process.
Not all cities do Special Assessment Districts. In Williston, ND right now, if a developer puts in roads/sewer, ect. the developer has to pay that bill and he charges more for the lot up front, in order to get paid back. It's much harder for developers to come up with the cash to create infrastructure and the developer bears all the costs and the risk.
When the city shares in the "risk" - footing the upfront costs, lots are cheaper, but the Special Assessments can also be high. The city of Fargo, still takes part in new developments and has Special Assessment districts, as do Bismarck and Mandan. A Vacant Lot could cost $35,000 and have $14,000 to $20,000 in specials, etc. That could add $100 to $200 a month to your house payment. If no specials district, your lot could go from $30,000 up to $60,000 or higher depending on market conditions, but there wouldn't be any specials.... more