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Purchase of Northfield Villa step toward filling housing need
February 26, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Northfield Villa, a retirement community in Gering for decades, is on the block to be sold to Twin Cities Development for use as temporary housing for workforce recruiters.

Twin Cities Development and the Northfield Retirement Communities reached an agreement this past week for the development group to buy the property.

Northfield Villa − built in Gering as a retirement community in the early 1970s − now awaits the approval of the state Attorney General’s Office because of the facility’s non-profit status. An assisted living section of the complex, referred to as the Northfield Vista, will stay open. Current residents of the Villa will have the option to stay living there.

As for the rest of the housing complex, the development group plans to use it for providing temporary or medium-term housing for people taking jobs in Gering and Scottsbluff.

Those seeking local employment in Gering and Scottsbluff sometimes deal with putting their houses on the market elsewhere and preparing for the move itself.

This creates the need for temporary housing, something which is in short supply in the Twin Cities.

The Western Nebraska Economic Development group discussed the issue at a meeting this month. They’re hoping an ongoing housing study of the region (see story this page), which will include what “gap housing” might be available in Scotts Bluff, Morrill, and Kimball counties, as well as provide a remedy for the need of temporary and permanent housing for a growing community.

Western Nebraska Community College President Dr. Todd Holcomb used himself as an example of someone in need of immediate housing when he arrived in 2009. “I had contacted several landlords about rentals and only found one,” he said. “I was thankful for that because it allowed me to rent for four months before I bought a home in Gering. It gave me the time to get adjusted to my new job and to have free time to look for a house.”

Holcomb, who also served as TCD’s board chair, said the Northfield Retirement Communities board reached out to them about selling the property for this express purpose. “We think this is a win-win for the community,” he said. “It fills that temporary short-term gap that businesses have when they’re bringing in new employees into the Panhandle.”

Holcomb said many changes have occurred in today’s workforce.
Individuals usually give two weeks’ notice before starting a new job. Often, that doesn’t allow a person the opportunity to look for housing.
Depending on the time of year, month-to-month rentals are hard to find.

There’s still a lot to do before the sale can be approved. A replat of the property has been done and approved by the both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Gering City Council. The approval by the Attorney General’s office is a process which includes an appraisal of the property, which could take a few months to complete. Before this agreement was made, the Northfield Retirement Communities had turned to the private sector for prospective buyers, which didn’t pan out. Bill Johnson, the retirement communities’ CEO, said the development group would be a good neighbor, and partner as their working relationship grows.

Holcomb said they are hoping to complete the sale by April 1.
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