The Chadron City Council Monday night approved a request from High Plains Community Development for LB-840 funds to build 2 houses in Chadron. High Plains plans to apply for a dollar-for-dollar state workforce housing match for the $150,000 in city money and over $100,000 in privately-raised funds.
The plan also calls for High Plains to start a Reuse Loan Fund when the proceeds from the sale of the two houses start to come in.
The public hearing on the request resumed Monday night after being continued for a week because the city’s LB-840 advisory committee hadn’t been able to meet yet. Committee member Duane Gardner told the council the panel has since met and endorsed the proposal whole-heartedly.
Council approval was unanimous, but not whole-hearted except for councilman Miles Bannan, who said he backed any proposal that would help meet the city’s shortage of affordable housing and give the city a 3.4-to-1 return on its money – the impact of the hoped for state fund.
Mayor Mark Werner and councilmen Keith Crofutt and Joe Johndreau all had some level of misgivings on whether the proposal would be successful, the wisdom of using tax money for private homes, and taking the LB-840 fund to zero for a time. All 3, though, agreed giving the $150,000 to High Plains was worth the risk.
High Plains executive director Rita Horse again told the council the request for city funds would be shelved if the project doesn’t get the state grant, but added that the situation would be reviewed if it was only a partial match. Horse is confident, though, that full funding will be approved.
A 2017 study of Chadron’s housing needs called for 250 new or rehabbed units, but only 12 new and 15 rehabbed units have been added in the last 5 years. Mayor Werner hopes the High Plains project triggers more construction.
This Thursday is the application deadline for the state match. Horse expects to get an answer in October, a schedule that would likely see the first of 2 modular homes be finished and new owners moving in a little over a year from now.
The two houses would not have income requirements and would have to be occupied by a working individual or family.