In 2000, Seward, Nebraska (pop. 5,641) had the rather pleasant dilemma of increased economic growth, but as a result, housing became scarce. To remedy the situation, city leaders planned The Village at Heartland Park—eight duplexes (16 units) of affordable housing for people ages 55 and older. The goal was to attract seniors who could no longer maintain their homes the way they wanted, thereby freeing up affordable housing for younger families moving into the community.
Each 985-sq. ft. unit features two bedrooms with refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, disposal, washer/dryer, mini blinds and attached garage with automatic garage door opener. The lawns were equipped with underground sprinkler systems and all lawn care and snow removal is provided by the owners.
The project was part of a larger planned retirement community that features an existing assisted living facility, and new market rate townhouses for rent and sale. Key partners in the project included sponsor Seward County Housing Corporation, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA), Equity Fund of Nebraska, and Excel Development Group.
Seward County Housing Corporation and the Equity Fund of Nebraska, Inc. co-own the project.
Excel Development Group was retained by the Seward County Housing Corporation to develop the project, and serve as property manager.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development awarded $373,000 in Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Funds. NIFA awarded low-income housing tax credits. Equity Fund of Nebraska provided $799,000 in equity investment for the tax credits. The Cattle National Bank & Trust, and the Jones National Bank, both in Seward, provided the $856,000 construction loan, and a $240,000 permanent loan.
To qualify, tenants had to go through a process to verify that they earned incomes of less than 60 percent of the area median income for Seward, and for some units, 50 percent.
The maintenance-free housing at Village at Heartland Park proved a big hit.
One of the Village’s first tenants—a 75-year-old woman who had been widowed for more than 10 years—was happy to be accepted. Due to her age and health, she could no longer attend to the regular maintenance of her home. During construction, she added her name to the waiting list, and filled out an application and income verification paperwork.
“ The duplex provides an environment very similar to my home without the maintenance concerns,” she said. “It’s also nice to have neighbors in your own age group.”