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Sidney to invest in more housing

City council unanimously approves resolution to apply for rural workforce housing grant

By Joshua Wood, Stevenson Newspapers

Like other places throughout the West, Sidney has been facing a housing crunch and a lack of available inventory for a workforce in the Nebraska panhandle.

On February 28, the Sidney City Council took a step towards trying to improve the situation by applying for Rural Workforce Housing Funds. Passed in 2017 and signed by Governor Pete Ricketts, the Rural Workforce Investment Housing Act provides matching grants to non-profit organizations that administer such funds.

“We’ve been working on putting a lot of things together for this grant application,” said City Manager David Scott. “We had to put together a board so, should it be approved, we would have a board that would make decisions on how to administer these funds.”

The board, said Scott, would need to be independent from the Economic Development Advisory Board for the City of Sidney. With five members, it would require a banker, a realtor, a developer and a current city council member to sit on the board.

Though the Rural Workforce Investment Housing Act has provided matching funds since its creation, Scott said this year the funds would be matched 2-to-1 instead of the traditional 1-to-1. The primary reason for this was due to an influx of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally, the Nebraska Community Foundation had committed money to help with the match for the grant.

One of the requirements for using ARPA funds, said Scott, was a portion of the money needed to be spent on infrastructure if it wasn’t established. According to Scott, this put Sidney in an ideal position for grant money because the City already had infrastructure in place and could focus on new builds. If the non-profit formed to dispense the funds were to loan out the majority of the money before the next cycle, Sidney would be eligible to reapply in 2024.

Scott said he would be asking for $1 million in Rural Workforce Housing Funds, with the match being a split between the City of Sidney’s general fund at $300,000 and another $200,000 from the Nebraska Community Foundation. This would bring the total amount of funds to $1.5 million to either build new housing or rehabilitate existing workforce housing.

Vice Mayor Roger Gallaway asked Scott about new construction over rehabilitation in regards to the writing of the resolution which would approve the grant application.

“We can also use it for rehabbing. I think we would be able to expend it quicker on new workforce housing than on smaller projects,” said Scott. “There’s lots of different aspects we could use this for, but the way to expend it the quickest is to incentivize developers to build workforce housing.”

If the City of Sidney’s grant application is approved, said Scott, the $1.5 million received would act as a revolving fund for developers to rehabilitate or construct new housing. The loan amounts would begin at a minimum of $20,000 for rehabilitation and $50,000 for new construction. The maximum loan amount would be $325,000 per owner-occupied unit or $250,000 per rental unit.

The loans would be determined on a case-by-case basis, along with the interest rates which would range from 0 to 1.5 percent. Additionally, a fee of one percent of the loan amount would need to be paid to the City of Sidney Housing Investment Fund at the closing of the loan.

The Sidney City Council approved the resolution for grant application and the corresponding documents 5-0.

The next meeting of the Sidney City Council will be at 7 p.m. on March 14 at Sidney City Hall.


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