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City applies for state housing funds
May 04, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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The Gering City Council gave its approval to an ongoing application process to build affordable housing in the area of the former McKinley Elementary School.

On April 23, the Gering City Council gave its approval to an ongoing application process to build affordable housing in the area of the former McKinley Elementary School.

Gering is working with Western Nebraska Housing Opportunities to secure state funding through the Department of Economic Development (DED). The application asks for a $470,000 grant to help build single family homes for qualified low income families and individuals. Through grants and loans, Gering will invest nearly a quarter million dollars in the project.

But first, the abandoned school building, which is beyond repair, must be demolished and the city block cleared. The property owner said he is willing to work with the city to remove the building.
Rick Willis, marketing and research manager with Twin Cities Development, is assisting with the application. He told the council the project calls for building approximately 10 homes on the block. They would sell in the $90,000 to $130,000 range to people at 100 percent and below average median income.

“We submitted a pre-application so we could get guidance on what a good application would look like,” Willis told council members. “In addition to the loan, they wanted assurance that $90,000 would go toward land acquisition.”

DED also recommended raising the amount of aid available to home buyers from $2,500 to $5,000 for closing costs.

Willis also told the Gering council the state would like at least one of the homes to be built by a non-profit agency, such as Habitat for Humanity or the Gering High School construction class. That would help make the housing even more affordable.

“The sale of homes will be added into the total project,” Willis said. “Those funds will go back to Gering, but they have to be reused within the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust. But it’s good the money is coming to Gering and staying within the community.”

Willis said that he spoke with local bankers, realtors and others who told him there’s a need for affordable housing in Gering, especially housing in the range of their application.

“The state really wanted some rental units to be included, but this isn’t the place for that,” he said. “The surrounding neighborhood is primarily single family housing because of zoning.”

To underscore the need for more affordable housing, Willis pointed out that Gering’s population grew 9.7 percent in the last decade, but the number of homes went up by only 1.8 percent.

Nebraska DED has already received 26 other pre-applications
from communities around the state and they expect about 35 applications for the funds.

Council members voted to go ahead with the formal application process. If Gering is approved for funding, the council would have to pass a resolution for the project. The state is expected to award the funds around mid-July.
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