Housing Investment is Critical for York County’s Growth: A $1 Million Grant Should Help
15 Sep 2023
A lack of workforce housing is a barrier to growth in York County. But, the receipt of an additional $1 million in funding and an active strategy could help to turn the tide. A renewed focus on housing development could not come sooner for York County companies in search of employees.
“We have hundreds of job openings right now, and we do not have enough beds for the number of openings, which means employers cannot recruit people from outside the area. We have people who want to move to York County for work but either have to turn down the job or commute an hour away, which creates a retention challenge for our local companies,” said Lisa Hurley, YCDC Executive Director. “In September, on NEWorks alone, there were 411 jobs that were either hybrid or on-site positions. We are at full employment, which means we have officially hit both a workforce and housing crisis simultaneously. We can’t solve either without developing additional housing units.”
Thus far, the May 2021 York County Housing Study, an update to the 2016 study, has guided the county’s housing strategy, but the established development goals have not been met. Since 2018, the city has built over 100 units, likely supporting greater growth. Despite the new development, there are still approximately 12 homes for sale in a community where 315 - 504 housing units should be on the market at any given time. This includes rental units, something there is a strong demand for. “There is a particular shortage of available housing for people with incomes greater than $50,000,” said Hurley. “As our economy grows, we need to ensure there are homes for people in every income bracket.”
If the economy remains consistent, it is anticipated that 114 rental units and 114 owner-occupied units will need to be developed by 2025. The data projections show that by 2030, at least 542 units will be required. “These are conservative numbers,” said Hurley. “YCDC is actively working to help local companies expand and attract new investment. This means more jobs and an increased need for housing.”
To meet the projected housing demand, 48 housing units should be constructed annually in York County. “We’re not hitting these numbers. According to Dan Aude, since May 10, 2021, the City has issued permits for 40 new single-family homes. There have been 27 completed, and 13 are currently in process,” Hurley said. “That’s a start, but it’s not enough. Fortunately, we have developed strategies to help expedite the development of new housing units.”
These strategies include:
#1 Neighborhood conservation
“We have made some headway on neighborhood conservation but need to invest more if we want to turn all vacant properties into available units,” said Hurley. This strategy can improve neighborhoods, increase access, and turn vacant properties into ones that could be occupied. It could include public investment in the street and sidewalk system or more direct investment to rehab homes.
#2 New neighborhood development
The strong economy and the relatively young population should position York for growth over the next decade. This opportunity to keep young professionals depends on the ability of York to realize private market investment to create high-quality neighborhood development. The continued addition of homes on the market will help improve housing opportunities, overall housing quality, and the city’s tax base.
#3 Affordable lot development
“There has been some progress on the development of affordable lots, but creating an adequate supply of more affordable lots continues to be a priority.”
#4 Community marketing
Marketing York County as an excellent place to live is key to attracting additional housing development and talent. Targeted attention and policies to maintain and improve the appearance of York’s gateway corridors is essential and that requires public/private investment. “We have made some headway on wayfinding and promoting York County through diverse marketing efforts. This will ultimately assist us in attracting more housing development to the county,” said Hurley.
The Need for Housing Will Remain Strong, Demanding the Implementation of Housing Strategies
In addition to the above strategies, York County and YCDC must identify ways to make construction more affordable. With the current cost to construct, it may be difficult for developers and private landowners to cashflow a project if developed for the rental market. This is where the $1 million grant and other funding sources can help. The $1 million came from the Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing Fund grants, which will be used for YCDC’s revolving loan fund. Another million will go to the Southeast Nebraska Affordable Housing Council, of which a portion will be put toward a subdivision in Henderson, reported the York News Times. “We are currently working with contractors and developers on potential projects. If you are interested in developing housing within York County, please reach out,” said Hurley. “The priority of this funding is to add new housing units to help with our workforce needs. We are excited about the potential project already on the table.”
Leveraging grant funds is an ideal way to encourage housing development that will benefit the community, and be profitable for the developer. Finding these grant opportunities and establishing public/private partnerships is something YCDC has prioritized. “I believe the housing needs presented are underestimated due to changes and growth in our economy, which remains strong. Housing continues to be a major challenge as businesses are recruiting employees who want to live here. We are poised for a major growth opportunity if we can get our hands around housing,” said Hurley. “YCDC is incredibly thankful to the following individuals and businesses who helped us raise $500,000 for this $1 million grant.”
Thank you to the following for your generous contributions: Baer's Furniture in York, NE, Carrie Colburn, C-TEC AG, City of York, NE, Central Valley Ag, Chances "R" Restaurant & Lounge, Collins Aerospace, Conner Roofing, Cornerstone Bank, Cyclonaire Corporation, Dan's Construction, Doug Hanson, EpWorks Workforce Housing, Ginger Johnson LLC, Henderson State Bank, Kopsa Otte, Kroy Industries, McCarthy Holthus, LLP, McCormicks Heating and Air Conditioning, Nancy Dob & Dan Pedersen, Nebraska Rural Radio Association, The Jewelers Vault, Union Bank & Trust, Anonymous, York County Development Corporation, York General, and York Heating & Air Conditioning Inc