A bill aimed at spurring housing construction in rural Nebraska advances in the Unicameral.
Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg sponsors LB 518, the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act, which would subsidize the construction of homes and rental units in rural Nebraska. It would also help assist rural Nebraskans with mortgage and rental payments.
Under the measure, approximately $7 million in unused funds sitting in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund would be transferred to create a new fund aimed directly at the rural areas of the state.
Williams tells colleagues during legislative floor debate a recent survey conducted by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority found that a house in Lincoln or Omaha that would sell for $198,000 would cost $248,000 in the Panhandle.
“We simply don’t have the housing developers in rural areas compared to our neighbors in Lincoln and Omaha,” according to Williams, “And we don’t get the economies of scale that can be achieved with the housing development in more populated areas.”
Williams’ bill would create a grant program in which a non-profit development organization could apply for money from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The money could be used to help finance construction of single-family houses or even rental units.
Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse tells colleagues he became aware of the problem during a recent tour of the state.
“But, it was amazing to me the conversation we had; every single stop we made was talking about workforce housing and how we’re out of balance in the state of Nebraska, how the wages have not kept up with the ability to pay for housing,” Watermeier says. “Every community is desperate for workforce housing.”
State legislators vote 41 – 0 to advance the measure to the next round. It must pass two more rounds of voting to move on to the governor.