Rural housing needs have the attention of the Ricketts Administration.
State Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger says housing has become a real problem as Nebraska attempts to attract businesses to the state.
“We’re seeing a housing shortage across the state, but it’s more pronounced in rural areas, in part because there’s a workforce shortage in skilled trades in the rural areas as opposed to the metro areas,” according to Dentlinger. “And, in addition, infrastructure issues are more pronounced there. It’s most difficult to achieve economies of scale.”
One measure which passed the legislature will use grants to increase the housing stock in rural Nebraska. Another, attempting to expand TIF to include rural housing, failed to overcome a filibuster. It is likely to return next session.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has high hopes for the bill authorizing grants to increase the housing stock in the rural portions of the state.
“There are a lot of programs out there right now for low-income housing, but really nothing for that area for the person who is maybe working in, say, an ethanol plant,” Ricketts says. “And so we want to encourage that through this grant program to get the developers to come in and create that housing.”
A bill attempting to expand Tax Increment Financing to subsidize the construction of workforce housing in rural Nebraska failed to overcome the objections of a few rural senators who expressed a philosophical opposition to using TIF for such purposes. Supporters couldn’t muster the votes needed to overcome the filibuster and go to a vote.
Ricketts supports the concept, though he understands the opposition.
“Well, again, we have friends on both sides of that,” according to Ricketts. “I think there’s some compromises we can work on and we’ll work on that for next year.”
LB 518, establishing a grant program for rural housing, passed this past legislative session.
LB 496, which would have expanded TIF for rural housing construction, failed.