Ricketts Praises Local Housing Partnership

Ricketts Praises Local Housing Partnership Main Photo

23 Jul 2020

BD Engineering Manager Josh Lindmark and his wife, Celeste, were thrilled to find a new home in Holdrege for their growing family, which includes four children under age 6.

The Lindmark family, who has lived in Holdrege for four years, recently purchased the new home at 1019 11th Ave., which came about through the teamwork of many local, regional and statewide organizations.

Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke at a press conference and ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the home on July 8.

“This is a fantastic project that demonstrates leadership and how we are going to continue to grow the state of Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “Projects like these do require a team effort. It takes a lot of people to pull all this together.”

Teamwork to GROW Communities

The 1019 11th Ave. project began when PCDC purchased the lot that PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said “featured two ramshackle houses that were sometimes occupied but were not contributing to the overall work of our community.”

PCDC razed the two homes with funds from its GO! Home program and sold the lot to South Central Economic Development District, who was also working on workforce housing solutions in its 13-county area.

SCEDD had set aside money for workforce housing and also received a grant through LB518, Nebraska’s Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act that was adopted in 2018.

“Today, with the SCEDD partnership using LB518 and other resources, we have produced a house we can all be proud of,” Tillery said at the ribbon-cutting.

NIFA (Nebraska Investment Finance Authority) bankers and real estate developers and other organizations also were involved in the project.

“In order to grow Nebraska and GROW 37, we need to do this over and over again to reach our goals,” Tillery said. “Structures like the ones behind me are homes to the families who fuel our future progress. To achieve success in economic development, communities must also simultaneously improve the standard of living for the workforce. We must all be more proactive to accomplish these and other goals. We can’t be content to only react to issues or to be faithful caretakers of the status quo.”

Success of LB518

Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, a main proponent of LB518, also attended the ribbon cutting and said he pushed for the bill because he recognized that the lack of workforce housing was one of the most significant hindrances to growing the state, especially in rural areas.

Williams stated the Nebraska State Legislature dedicated $7.4 million to the fund, and communities and economic development organizations had to match funds to participate. The rural housing act spurred 14 projects across the state, which added $100 million in properties and more than 570 living units.

“I think that’s quite a bang for your buck,” Williams said. “An investment of $7.4 million by the state that has now turned into nearly $100 million on the tax rolls.”

The LB518 funds were designed to be reused, meaning once the projects are completed and owners pay for the housing, that money can be reused again to provide loans for additional projects.

SCEDD Executive Director Sharon Hueftle said now that the Holdrege project is complete, it frees up funds for more projects in the south-central region.

“With the completion of this project, all that money will have been used once, and it will be used again,” she said. “The plan is for that to be a perpetual fund.”

Growing Rural Nebraska

Josh Lindmark, the BD executive who is purchasing the 11th Avenue home, is originally from Kentucky. He said it was difficult to find housing in Holdrege. Their choices typically ranged from $40,000 fixer-upper homes to expensive homes over $400,000, Lindmark said.

“What we liked about this house was that it’s brand new, and there’s the opportunity to finish the basement how we want,” he said.

The Lindmarks made an offer on the home just a few days after local Realtors had a chance to tour it in early June.

Ricketts said projects like this are needed to help strong employers, like BD where Lindmark works, recruit the workers they need.

“Having that quality workforce house is critical for our towns to be able to grow,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts said Nebraska has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic better than most states, and while it has the highest unemployment rate the state has seen (5.2%), that is still the lowest of any state in the country.

He said as the state continues to recover, the availability of affordable and quality housing will be even more important as employers look for qualified workers to fill jobs.

The 1019 11th Ave. home is another step in the right direction.

“It represents that Holdrege is looking toward the future, and Holdrege will continue to grow,” Ricketts said. “You will continue to have great-paying jobs right here in Holdrege so you can attract young people here. It’s a great day for the city of Holdrege and a great day for all of the organizations involved in this project.”

The Phelps County Development Corporation also received a rural workforce housing grant that is being used to build homes in the new CREW Subdivision in east Holdrege. Construction on the first rental homes in the subdivision are nearing completion. The project will add more than 40 living units to Holdrege once complete.

Sen. Williams said he hopes to offer a bill to establish a second round of funds into the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act when the Legislature reconvenes in late July.