Housing Investments Are Critical Infrastructure & Necessary for York County’s Growth
22 Aug 2022
Housing availability is critical infrastructure because, without available housing units, people can’t move to York County to work for local employers. “If our community is going to grow we must invest in our housing supply and make it as easy as possible for people to move here,” said Lisa Hurley, Executive Director of York County Development Corporation.
York County’s 2016 Housing Study predicted that there would be a need for an additional 235 owner-occupied housing units and 235 rental housing units by 2025, with 47 units needing to be built per year. York County’s low vacancy rates were cited as a concern in the report.
A low vacancy rate may seem like a positive feature for a community; an assertion that the housing market is balanced in terms of supply and demand. However, a healthy vacancy rate is typically considered to be in the range of 5% to 6% compared to York's estimated rate of 3%. A healthy vacancy rate indicates that there is availability within the housing market for new residents to enter the market and for established residents to move up or downsize as desired.
A healthy vacancy rate also has the effect of creating competition in the housing market which typically drives housing quality to improve. In a low vacancy environment, a new employee may be forced to decide whether to select from a limited number of low quality units with comparatively high rents or to live elsewhere. The construction of new units or the improvement of existing, sub-par units creates additional supply which creates more opportunity for all participants in the housing market while driving up the quality of housing units.
When the housing study was updated in 2021, researchers found that 542 housing units by 2030, with half of these rental units. This is after successful projects like Creekside Apartments created one, two and three-bedroom rental units. This project was recognized by Governor Ricketts. When visiting in 2021, he said, “To grow Nebraska, we need a strong supply of quality, affordable homes to welcome working families to our communities,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Programs like the Rural Workforce Housing Fund and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund provide Nebraska’s rural communities with more of the tools they need to grow.”
This was one of many projects YCDC worked on. For example, they worked with York County and the Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD) for an application and award of Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF) for Owner Occupied Rehab (OOR). In addition, the City of York has a program that makes it easier for people to purchase homes that need to be rehabilitated. The City will purchase the unit, perform the rehabilitation and resell it to the applicant while also providing down payment assistance. “This is an incredible program for first-time homebuyers who want to purchase a home that’s affordable. With the city making repairs, buyers don’t have to come up with the funds to make a home move-in ready,” said Hurley. Click here to learn about these and other programs.
We Need Community Support to Invest in Housing
YCDC is looking to access more of these tools to spur housing development. We are actively working on several potential projects, and are looking for individuals, businesses, and contractors to partner on this. One possibility is another round of funding due yet this fall which would require matching funds. More information will be coming out on this!
Community members can participate in helping to spur housing development in York County. Individual homebuyers can purchase homes that need to be rehabilitated thanks to the City’s program. In addition, YCDC can help share programs like SENDD, USDA and NIFA’s housing programs. YCDC can help investors to identify lots and resources.
“As a community, we need to determine how serious York County wants to get about investing in housing so that we can create more tangible plans for development,” said Hurley. “Some communities have created funds to offset development costs so there is a lot we can do to bring housing to York County.” Part of YCDC’s efforts are purely educating the community and potential investors that there is a need for further housing development.