Unique, exciting and replicable: three adjectives that aptly describe the projects that have been awarded funding under the DED-administered Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF) Innovative Housing Demonstration Program.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) administers the NAHTF program annually to support communities in their efforts to develop quality, affordable homes. This, in turn, promotes economic growth by empowering communities to attract and retain working residents.
On one hand, it was business as usual in 2018 as DED announced the award of 28 NAHTF applications for the annual program cycle — though “business as usual” hardly applies to a program that has helped to develop thousands of housing units across Nebraska since its inception in 1996. On the other, this year saw DED administer approximately $1.35 million from the NAHTF in an entirely new way.
Under the Innovative Housing Demonstrative Program, DED challenged community stakeholders to find creative and effective ways to address their local housing needs.
“With NAHTF funding still available, we were able to do something out of the ordinary and issue a request for proposals,” said DED Director Dave Rippe. “What we were searching for were innovative, ‘outside-the-box’ methods for addressing community housing issues; projects that would not only accomplish local objectives, but that would do so in a way that has perhaps not been done before in Nebraska, and that could potentially serve as a model for other communities.”
As anticipated, the economic development community delivered in spades.
“We received 33 proposals under the new program, and the quality of proposals made selecting a short list of finalists a difficult task,” Rippe said. “We are consistently impressed by the work of our peers in the housing and economic development communities. They provide outstanding service to our state, and are a driving force behind Nebraska’s growth.”
Ultimately, DED selected two economic development organizations and a local municipality to receive funding under the Innovative Housing Demonstration program. All projects will benefit persons who are at or below 120% of their area median income, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) will receive $450,000 to support a project that involves transforming unused, dilapidated buildings on the now-vacant Dana College campus into a variety of affordable housing options. The initial award will support the renovation of a former dormitory into a dozen apartments.
“This project is a tremendous and creative example of adaptive reuse,” Rippe said. “It, like the remaining two projects, will also harness revolving loan funds. This means the impact of our initial investments will create a ripple effect to support new investments and projects.”
In southwest Nebraska, McCook Economic Development Corporation was awarded $405,600, which it will use to finance a unique revolving loan fund created in partnership between the communities of McCook, Benkelman and Cambridge. While DED’s initial investment will fund the construction of two single-family units, the partnership framework creates a scenario where each community pitches in and everyone benefits.
“This is a project where three independent communities have come to the table with a shared vision and formed a strong, concerted plan of action,” Rippe said. “It’s a terrific example of what can be accomplished through the power of partnerships.”
Last but not least, the City of Superior will receive $500,000 to support its BOOM (“Building Owner Occupied Momentum”) initiative. This will see the City experiment with a variety of traditional and non-traditional housing options — including prefabricated container homes and cottages — to attract and accommodate families and young professionals. The initial award will support the construction of six new infill units. As homes are sold, proceeds will be used as revolving loans for additional housing activities.
“Sometimes non-traditional progress calls for non-traditional approaches,” Rippe said. “In Superior, housing leaders are finding ways to extract the biggest bang out of every investment in the community housing stock. As with each of the Innovative Housing Demonstration projects, we’re excited to see this come to fruition.”
More information related to the Innovative Housing Demonstration program is slated for release as projects are completed. In the meantime, keep following DED for the latest news and information on the NAHTF and other economic development programs.