Community members and elected officials of the Village of Fairmont (pop. 561) in Fillmore County, NE, have taken a proactive approach to community improvement through the years. Their planning, developing and implementing of community-wide projects has led to improved quality of life and economic sustainability, and will continue to do so long into the future.
In 2009 and 2013 the Village of Fairmont applied for and received Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) for two separate projects. The grants were awarded to implement a community-wide Owner-Occupied Housing Rehabilitation program. The program has assisted 17 low-moderate-income homeowners to make needed repairs to address housing quality standards, building codes, and safety issues.
“One significant result of implementing a housing rehab program is that it makes the town more appealing to visitors and perspective new residents,” said Fairmont Village Clerk Linda Carroll. “Seventeen households being rehabilitated in a town of 561 people is tremendous.”
The most recent round of construction to take place as part of the implementation phase began in October 2013. Construction is projected to be completed by spring 2015. The total cost of the 2013 phase was $193,032, of which $186,000 was from CDBG funds. Of the two projects, the 2013 project is building six units for the purpose of low-to-moderate households, which meets the national objective of aiding low-to-moderate income persons.
The Village Board of Trustees appointed a volunteer citizen’s advisory committee to oversee implementation of Fairmont’s Housing Rehabilitation Program. The Village also retained grant administrative assistance, housing program management, and lead testing and clearance services from the Southeast Nebraska Development District. This volunteer committee is a perfect example of Fairmont’s dedication to true community implemented improvements as opposed to improvements only made by elected officials or administrators.
Fairmont resident Janelle Verhage, a single parent who operates an in-home daycare business, participated in the program. Her home needed exterior lead paint abatement as well as other code and safety issue upgrades. A list of repairs included new electrical panels brought up to state electrical standards, replacement windows, replacement doors, new gutters, a new front entrance, new vinyl siding, and removal and clearance of lead-based paint on the exterior.
“This was a perfect solution for my needs as my family and my in-home daycare are low income,” said Verhage. “I’m happy to say that thanks to this program I have an energy efficient beautiful home. This is a wonderful program. Thank you!”
The program has prevented loss of existing housing stock, addressed nuisance and code deficiencies, and improved the quality, safety, and affordability of existing affordable housing for residents in the Village of Fairmont.
Fairmont is just one example of a successful housing project in Nebraska. However, the state has seen much success in housing over the last five years. Over $7 million in CDBG funds have been dedicated to housing projects. The projects aim to help owners rehabilitate their homes, so that they may better serve the families that occupy them. These housing projects always benefit low-to-moderate income families and approximately 200 houses for these families have been rehabilitated through the OOR program from CDBG. These projects, as Fairmont demonstrates, help homeowners meet safety standards, resulting in improvements to their quality of living.