With a little imagination and a big dose of determination, you can accomplish just about anything. Just ask housing leaders in Cozad, where land that once contained the local middle and high school became the site of the official groundbreaking for Gatewood Village — 15 new triplex apartments that address a need for affordable housing to support economic growth.
Pat Hosick is executive director of the Cozad Housing Authority, a nonprofit that’s on a mission to create living options for low-to-moderate income individuals and families in Cozad. Supplying homes that are accessible to working families, she says, is a key piece for ensuring the city lives up to its economic potential.
“If we want to see Cozad continue to grow and thrive, we have to keep working to create housing that can appeal to working families of a variety of income levels,” said Hosick.
When the old middle school was demolished in 2018, the agency saw an opportunity. After obtaining the vacant land, they teamed up with Cozad Development Corporation (CDC) and Mesner Development to draw up a blueprint leading to the future builds.
The result? Fifteen three-bedroom apartments — five buildings in all, priced for households at or below 60% of the area median income — that will not only add to the housing inventory, but could potentially free up space for new families by creating an attractive option for residents who are ready to downsize.
“These new units are ideal for seniors, small families or anyone looking for something low-cost and low-maintenance but with great amenities,” Hosick said. “When they move, that becomes a new option for another family or young professional coming to town.”
To obtain project financing, the Housing Authority worked side-by-side with Cozad Development Corporation to apply for $500,000 in HOME Investment Partnerships funding through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. A federal program, HOME is the nation’s largest funding source for rental development targeting low-to-moderate income households.
“Cozad probably couldn’t have gotten this project off the ground without the support of the Department of Economic Development and the HOME program,” said Jennifer McKeone, Cozad Development Corporation executive director, whose agency leads an array of programs and partnerships designed to spur the city’s growth and quality of life. “HOME and other State resources have played a major role in our community in terms of helping us pursue our vision for economic growth.”
Meanwhile, Mesner Development was able to obtain Low-Income Housing Tax Credit support (LIHTC) to offset the cost to build. The LIHTC program — administered by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority — offers a financial tool that, since its inception, has helped dozens of communities across the state, like Cozad, achieve their goals for quality housing development.
“The State has done a terrific job investing resources to allow progressive communities like Cozad, where there are a lot of job openings and economic potential, tackle the financial challenges associated with housing growth,” said Kathy Mesner, whose firm has a track record of innovative design-and-builds in rural Nebraska, including those involving creative reuse.
With the new apartments slated to be ready next summer, Hosick says there’s already more brewing on the housing front, with new projects in the early planning stages in collaboration with the Development Corporation.
“It’s good to see progress,” said Hosick. “Now there’s more work to do. In a community like Cozad, housing will always be an important economic issue. Seeing what we were able to do is an inspiration for us to keep moving forward.”
For more information on the HOME or LIHTC programs, visit opportunity.nebraska.gov.