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Photo: Lieutenant Governor Foley cuts the ribbon in O’Neill alongside homeowners and project developers.


Today marked progress on the housing front in O’Neill, as Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley joined locals and project leaders to cut the ribbon on three new builds made possible by Nebraska’s Rural Workforce Housing Fund (RWHF).

“The need for housing is a sign of vibrant communities that are poised for growth,” Lt. Gov. Foley said. “But it takes the right combination of teamwork and resources to bring new homes to fruition. We congratulate O’Neill and its partners for their commitment to growing the workforce housing stock, and express our appreciation for the State resource that has made this and so many other housing achievements possible in rural Nebraska.”

The duplex rental and single-family home dedicated today were financed in part by a $239,630 grant in 2018 to Central Nebraska Economic Development, Inc. (CNED) from the State-funded RWHF, with matching contributions from the City and the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA).

For O’Neill, a community focused on economic growth — but also the entire central Nebraska region — today’s achievement represents a step in the right direction.

“The central Nebraska region is very thankful for the Rural Workforce Housing funds we have received from the State of Nebraska and the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority,” said Judy Petersen, CNED Executive Director. “Partnering these funds with local dollars will bring expanded housing development to the region, which is vital to retaining and attracting workforce for our communities.”

The RWHF was created by the 2017 Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act — a bill introduced to the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Ricketts to tackle workforce housing shortages in rural Nebraska. Administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the RWHF saw an initial $7 million allocation awarded to nonprofits and partnering local governments in 2018.

CNED was one of over a dozen nonprofit economic development groups to receive RWHF dollars during the program’s first round, with O’Neill, Valentine and NIFA supplying more than 100 percent of that amount in matching dollars — NIFA, itself, contributed $241,150 — to create a combined regional housing investment fund. Today’s builds were financed via a construction loan from that fund. Having since been repaid, they can be reinvested for future workforce development projects in the region.

Since 2018 overall, the RWHF has helped finance nearly 800 new builds and over 30 substantial rehabilitations in more than three dozen Nebraska communities, with project costs totaling at least $109 million.

Given the program’s initial success and the need for more workforce housing development, the State Legislature allocated another $10 million to the RWHF for award in 2020, which DED awarded this year.

“The Rural Workforce Housing Fund has made an incredible impact in Nebraska, and is helping us achieve the mission to grow our state’s housing inventory,” said Goins. “Workforce housing needs to be a priority for the future, and we congratulate today’s partners for working together to make progress.”

For more information on the RWHF, visit