LINCOLN Governor Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) announced the first grants from a new rural workforce housing program that was recently established. Following a recently-concluded grant application period, the Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act (LB518) is poised to support rural communities in their efforts to attract and retain a skilled, robust labor force.
Central Nebraska Economic Development, Inc. (CNED, Inc.), the non-profit housing arm of the Central Nebraska Economic Development District, has been awarded $239,630, which will be matched with $100,000 from the City of Valentine, $150,000 from the City of ONeill, and $240,000 from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority to construct or rehabilitate workforce housing in these two communities in our region.
Other Rural Workforce Housing Fund recipients include: Economic Development Council of Buffalo County, Greater Fremont Development Council, Hastings Economic Development Corporation, Holdrege Development Corporation, Lincoln County Community Development Corporation, MAPA Foundation, NeighborWorks Northeast Nebraska, North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corporation, Schuyler Community Development, Inc., SEND, Inc., South Central Development District, Inc., Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation, and York County Development Corporation.
The Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act will lead to better housing opportunities in rural communities, said Governor Ricketts. By serving the needs of working families and attracting residents and businesses, the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Fund will generate new workforce momentum and expand opportunities for hardworking families in communities throughout our state.
LB518 channeled approximately $7 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund into a new fund, the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Fund (RWHF). The RWHF, in turn, will fund regional rural workforce housing investment funds. These will be used to finance affordable housing development projects in communities within counties of less than 100,000 residents. LB518 will bolster rural communities workforce recruitment efforts by helping them expand and improve their affordable housing stock.
As the appointed administrator of the RWHF program, DEDs duties included choosing the most qualified funding recipients from nearly two dozen applicants. Eligibility for the program was limited to non-profit development organizations, each of whom submitted an application that was scored on the basis of factors such as ongoing local workforce housing needs and the demonstrated ability to manage housing and investment projects. All 14 awardees also showed they were capable of contributing the dollar-for-dollar match required of award recipients.
Projects allowed under RWHF included the construction of new owner-occupied housing at no more than $275,000 per unit, or rental units costing no more than $200,000. Home rehabilitation projects were also eligible, with certain restrictions, as were upper-story housing development projects.
No applicant was eligible under the RWHF to receive more than $1,000,000 over a two-year period. The top amount actually awarded by DED was $850,000. All RWHF program funds have been allotted as of April 30.
DED Director Dave Rippe expressed his appreciation for a program that he says will make significant impacts in rural Nebraska.
We are very grateful for the work of Governor Ricketts and our state legislators who brought the RWHF program to fruition, said Director Rippe. Affordable, adequate housing is a frequent discussion point when referring to the workforce challenges and opportunities faced by our rural communities. This program addresses that need directly, and in a big way, in locations throughout the state.”
More information on the RWHF program can be found at https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/workforce-housing-fund/. Information can also be obtained by contacting DEDs Director of Housing and Field Operations, Sheryl Hiatt, at email@example.com or (402) 340-6180.