Housing needed in Broken Bow

Broken Bow needs more housing. A meeting Monday organized by the Central Nebraska Economic Development Corporation invited area contractors, bankers, developers and current landlords asked the attendees if they would be interested in working on the project to get the job done. “This community needs more housing to bring in young people. When a young person moves into the community it adds to the tax rolls. Later they may buy, or they may build. There are not enough rentals available in Broken Bow. The idea is not to compete with the market that is here, the idea is to add to the available to bring people in”, said Judy Peterson Housing Director of the Central Nebraska Housing Developers. The information presented by Peterson was the result of a housing study completed last March. Along with a summary of the study, she presented an overview of possible funding resources from the state, regional and federal level, and a few of the deadline dates for some upcoming grants and low interest loan possibilities. Late last year, a housing committee was formed to ‘study the study’ and create an action plan. Study suggested setting a five year goal of adding 12-16 additional rental units for Broken Bow, focusing on two-three bedroom units for families of various income levels. These could include both duplex and single-family housing units. The study said Broken Bow was also in need of up to 16 single-family homes for families that provided three+ bedroom home ownership opportunities; up to 32 units of independent living housing for our senior citizens; and up to eight units of affordable rental housing for special population individuals. “What you want is for your young people to go to school, get a job and return. You have people returning to your community when they are 35-50 years old. Wouldn’t it just great if they came back sooner?” asked Peterson. With the addition of the community college in Broken Bow that scenario is possible, Peterson emphasized. According to the study, the city of Broken Bow currently has an estimated overall housing vacancy rate of 18.6 percent. The adjusted vacancy rate is estimated to be 4.2 percent. This, Peterson said, is and indicator that Broken Bow lacks both a modern rental and owner housing stock. The adjusted vacancy rate includes only vacant units that are available for rent or purchase that meet current housing code and have modern amenities. The conversation on the need for housing got started after the city council started looking at two pieces of property that would be good sites to build on. The sites currently offer the city no income through being on the tax rolls, and the properties have to be mowed. Stephanie Miller re-emphsized the need. As part of her job at Adams Land and Cattle, she helps potential employees look for possible places to live, and that good rental housing and starter homes with modern amenities are difficult to find. Mac McMeen agreed, pointing out that his conversations with the schools and BD reflect that challenge. Yes, Broken Bow has rental choices, but there just aren’t enough of them. Stuart Fox from Nebraska State Bank said when he looks at all the positive things going on the community, the Custer Campus, the Wind Farm … he agrees with the need. “There are a lot of folks who work in the community, but don’t live here,” he added. A few of the current land owners offered opinions on the challenges presented to offer the type of housing Peterson was suggesting and the roadblocks they see in getting it accomplished … “It all depends on who you have move in. You put a lot of work and money in and then they don’t take care of the property. You hope and pray you can find good renters,” said Arleva Eichelberger. Joyce Richardson agreed. “It is hard to refurbish and then be able to set the rent where your renters can afford the space.” The concern and questions voiced by the contractors centered around not only cash flow, but also payback, and that Peterson said, is where the grants and low interest loans come in. This project requires a community working together to complete, she emphasized. “It helps if there is a community partnership involved. It is almost critical this be a community effort,” she said. If interested in helping with the project, or for more information contact Judy Peterson at 402-340-0106, or ECDE President Liz Babcock at 308-872-1401.