Phelps County, NE: Diverse Solutions to Increase Housing Include GO! HOME Grants
10 Mar 2023
Phelps County Development Corporation (PCDC) is committed to encouraging housing construction and renovation to bring workers and their families home to Phelps County. Many commuters earn their paychecks here but take that money home to surrounding counties. If those workers could move to Phelps County, our economy would be positively impacted. More money would be spent locally on shopping, dining, and entertainment. Additionally, more tax revenue would be generated to help pay for civic necessities such as infrastructure and schools. Every time a family purchases a home in Phelps County, they contribute to our economic growth now and for years to come.
Phelps County also welcomes remote workers to enjoy our desirable quality of life. “If you can work from anywhere, why not live here!”
Phelps County Housing Study
“This study confirms what we knew intuitively from recent experience: Our market needs more housing for homeowners and renters,” PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said. “A lot more. The scope is clarified in the report and lays out the challenges we have to fill the current needs as well as our future growth.”
From the study: “Under a scenario where the creation of 200 additional Full-Time Employment (FTE) opportunities and the securement of up to 10 percent of the current commuter workforce happens, Phelps County would have the potential to increase in population by up to 4.7 percent, or 422 persons, for an estimated 2027 population of 9,359.”
Housing on the Horizon
PCDC is involved in several diverse solutions to increase housing inventory for owners and renters in Phelps County. By approaching the problem from several angles, PCDC hopes to assist comprehensive change in the housing market.
Heritage Homes in the CREW Subdivision
The CREW Subdivision in East Holdrege is nearing completion. What was an empty field in 2019 should have more than 40 new living units by the end of 2023.
Heritage Homes of Nebraska is building six single-family homes in the subdivision. Heritage Homes builds homes inside its factory in Wayne, NE, and delivers the completed homes to sites around the Midwest.
“Working with Ron Tillery and PCDC board has been an enjoyable process,” said Broch Muhs, Heritage Homes General Manager. “We are excited to break ground and start the on-site portion of the building process in the CREW Subdivision. As that process progresses, we are investigating the possibility of doing further builds beyond our original six homes in the CREW Subdivision in cooperation with PCDC.”
The community received a $318,500 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s rural workforce housing program and a $250,000 grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority to help fund infrastructure for the subdivision in 2019. PCDC contributed $250,000 in LB840 sales tax funds toward the project.
“Since Heritage first opened our doors, the goal was to efficiently build quality-constructed homes across several states, using their local builders and subcontractors while creating job opportunities for those in our own growing community,” said Muhs. “We were excited about the opportunity to work with the Holdrege community and Phelps County, who share that same mindset.”
Muhs elaborated on Heritage Homes’ construction process. “Building a custom home is an exciting process, but with so many options and decisions to make, it can be overwhelming for some people. Since 1978, we have dedicated ourselves to making custom home-building a simpler, more enjoyable experience without the delays that can come with traditional on-site construction.”
“With over four decades of building knowledge, a controlled environment, and experienced craftsmen, we are confident that we provide a superior alternative to the traditional construction experience,” said Muhs. “Our system allows us to work efficiently while delivering precision craftsmanship with access to an unparalleled selection of materials and options.”
The Dale Residences will soon do its part to alleviate the shortage of local workforce housing in Holdrege. After two-and-a-half years of renovations and repairs to the historic downtown Hotel Dale, the Dale Residences will open its doors to lease 25 apartments and offer four studio Airbnb units.
Owner Nancy Clark is part of the Colorado-based company Christopher Hayden LLC, which purchased the Hotel Dale — famous for guests like The Three Stooges and Gene Autry — in September 2020 at a public auction.
Now, the renovated apartments will be home to professionals looking for a unique small-town living experience close to downtown dining, drinks, movies, and shopping. The bright white, minimalist-style apartments are fully-furnished, providing a living experience that is clean, fresh, and refined. The second-floor community room boasts a ping pong table and large screen TV, coin-operated laundry machines are on-site, and 4,836 square feet of retail space is available to lease.
“What sets our apartments apart from others is that they are fully furnished with modern top-tier furnishings, art and hotel linens, plush duvets, thick bath towels, and even clothes hangers,” said Clark. “The only thing residents need to bring is dishware and glassware … oh, and a toothbrush!”
The apartments will be a boon for workers who want to end commuting to Holdrege and call it home instead.
“We receive multiple calls each week from people seeking apartments for long-term leases,” said Clark. “To a one, they are people who work in Holdrege but are currently commuting from a great distance to and from work each day.”
PCDC awarded GO! DREAM grants to The Dale Residences to replace windows and add a new canopy to improve the exterior appearance. The new windows — installed in the summer and fall of 2022 — also improve energy efficiency and block outside noises.
“The PCDC is proactive…before the pandemic…through the pandemic,” said Clark. “It’s rare in our experience that any entity charged with attracting and promoting businesses to a city has the chops that the PCDC demonstrates.”
In addition to apartments, the smallest rooms were converted into Airbnb rentals.
“Our Airbnbs will serve those individuals coming into the Holdrege area for short term stays — a day, a weekend, at most a week—for personal or business reasons,” said Clark. “While Holdrege has recognized brand motels, Airbnb’s market share continues to increase globally. We anticipate the loyalty to Airbnb will drive guests to the Dale to our four studio Airbnbs.”
“Airbnb guests will enjoy comfortable new memory foam hybrid gel mattresses, hotel amenities including shampoo-conditioner-body wash-lotion, waffle weave guest bathrobes, Keurig single-cup coffee pot plus coffee pods, cream, and sweeteners,” continued Clark. “Our Airbnb guests enjoy free WiFi and internet to conduct business or enjoy entertainment on their laptops. Our emphasis is on super clean maintenance of our Airbnbs, not average clean, but deep cleaning between guests every time.”
Retired BD Plant Manager, Chuck Mix, is now working to create housing solutions in Phelps County with the help of PCDC’s GO! HOME program. Since 2015, Mix has purchased ten homes, some of which were abandoned. Six renovations are complete, and four are still in progress. One of his current projects is the old “museum” home that was moved from the Nebraska Prairie Museum to 1315 Valley Street.
Mix said he appreciates the vision and leadership of PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery in offering GO! HOME grants to help with these types of projects. “These GO! funds have really made a difference in being able to do this work,” Mix said. “It’s the difference between making a profit or not.”
In 2022, to further efforts to turn commuters into full-time residents, PCDC expanded its GO! HOME program to add incentives to purchase mobile homes.
“It offers a choice to buyers,” Tillery said. “Mobile homes are more affordable to people who are just getting started in their careers and don’t have enough savings or equity to be able to afford a $250,000 or $150,000 home.”
PCDC offers a $1,000 matching grant to employers to help their employees purchase mobile homes in Phelps County. This will give potential new residents $2,000 toward buying a mobile home.
2023 GO! HOME Program
The GO! HOME Program is intended to encourage new residents and the construction and sales of local workforce housing in all Phelps County communities. Since it began in 2017, it has attracted 231 new residents to Phelps County. In 2022, PCDC awarded 20 down-payment assistance grants resulting in 48 new residents. Residents moved from nearby towns such as Lexington, Orleans, and Hildreth, as well as farther-away towns such as Lincoln, Omaha, and Plymouth, MN. Embecta was the matching grant employer on seven of the 17 grants. BD and Phelps Memorial Health Center also sponsored several employee matching grants.
The following GO! HOME grants are offered for home renovation work:
- Renovation Reimbursement Grant, Existing Rental Property: Up to $1,500 matching grants will be offered per renovated living unit to address deficiencies presented by outdated spaces, including electrical and plumbing infrastructure, HVAC, energy-efficient windows and doors, and other safety improvements. These grants may not be combined with other PCDC programs.
- Site Improvement/Demolition Reimbursement Grant: PCDC will match up to $2,500 to help developers or contractors renovate or create new living units on lots that need substantial improvement before construction. Funds may be used for landfill fees, demolition costs, asbestos remediation, dirt work, utility improvements, etc.
- Home Residential Code Compliance Grant: Developers may receive up to $2,500 per new living unit created in downtown buildings or existing commercial and residential buildings to bring additional vitality to the housing market. This may include modernizing sprinkler systems, electric and plumbing upgrades, elevators, faulty roofs, or other safety improvements.
The Following GO! HOME grants are offered for down payment assistance:
- Employer Match: PCDC matches employer funds of up to $2,500 to help current or new employees living outside of the county purchase a home in Phelps County. Employers may grant or loan more than $2,500.
- Public Employee: This program is designed to assist a current or new public employee living outside the county to move to Phelps County. PCDC grants up to $2,500 to employers for down payment assistance reimbursement. No match is required.
- Mobile Homes: PCDC will match employer funds of up to $1,000 to purchase mobile homes in county mobile home parks.
Phelps County Development Corporation
Phelps County Development Corporation has the tools, information, and skills to assist you with relocation for your business or family. PCDC is ready to help with housing and project advocacy, including permitting, timely utilities, and financial assistance. Contact PCDC today at (308) 995-4148 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To further explore “Why Phelps,” download the community guide.