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Six-month area housing study begins
February 26, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Keith Carl, community planner with Hanna:Keelan Associates, outlines the upcoming regional housing study his firm will conduct for the Western Nebraska Economic Development group.

A study to identify the quality and quantity of housing in Scotts Bluff, Morrill and Kimball Counties is underway and should be completed in about six months.

At their Feb. 18 meeting, members of Western Nebraska Economic Development received an outline of the work it commissioned from the community planning firm of Hanna:Keelan Associates in Lincoln.

Planner Keith Carl said about half of the study’s cost is being paid by a grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority. He said this is the first multi-county regional housing study NIFA has funded in its existence.

“We’re excited about this,” Carl said. “This study will show NIFA these types of studies for this large of an area really do work.”

Carl said the most important component of the study will be the Citizen Housing Survey. The comprehensive survey will answer questions about demographics; what people see as the biggest housing challenges in their communities; the percentages of ownership and rental housing available; support for housing rehabilitation programs; and other housing issues.

“Community planning is most effective when it involves as much of the general public as possible,” he said. “We’ll also be hosting listening sessions for people and other interest groups to give us their opinions.”

Additional surveys that are small in scope will also be conducted. Those include a workforce housing needs survey, targeting major employers, and a household survey addressing a continuum of care for elderly persons.

Once the study is completed, a “housing summit” is planned to bring in representatives from economic development, federal and state funding sources, housing developers and others to network, talk about the housing study and discuss how it can be implemented into individual communities.

“The big part of the finished housing study will be strategies for affordable housing and a housing action plan,” Carl said. “It’s a very detailed list of what types of housing should be developed in what communities, along with estimated cost and whether subsidies are available.”

He added they will also identify which housing partnerships at the federal, state and local level could contribute funding for a project.

As much as possible, the survey will be online for the public to complete. Paper copies would also be available as needed. An online link to the survey will be available soon and will be promoted throughout participating communities. Promotion through social media will be included.
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