LB840 Sales Tax Makes McCook Housing Projects Possible

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 02.29.16

MCCOOK – It’s no secret that opportunities exist to fill a need for affordable, quality housing in McCook.

The North Pointe Properties housing development on R Street has long-term plans for 27 residential units and it was announced in June the first six lots were ready for construction.

Since a 2013 housing study confirmed what most residents already knew about the shortage, the McCook Economic Development Corporation has taken several steps to start providing solutions, including  initiating the recently completed Clary Village and the upcoming Quillan Courts and providing financial infrastructure support for the North Pointe development.

MEDC Executive Director Rex Nelson said housing developments rarely happen in rural communities without some financial incentives, tax breaks or grants and often evolve through the cooperation of many agencies.

The MEDC is hoping to lead efforts into the next decade to develop more housing projects with the help of private donors and a local-option sales tax (LB840). On May 10, McCook voters will be asked to continue allocating a quarter percent of the city’s sales tax to the LB840 fund to continue support for housing and other economic development projects.

“People are telling us that they really see the value of attracting new residents to the community,” Nelson said. “But in all of that, housing and infrastructure to support housing are critical elements. We can’t support new business development if we can’t support housing. We have employers with jobs that they can’t fill because of a lack of housing.”

MEDC has been involved with finding solutions to housing shortages in McCook since it spearheaded the Purchase/Rehab/Resale program and Down Payment Assistance program in 2004. These programs are funded through grants and have resulted in 12 renovated homes and down payment assistance grants to 76 first time homeowners. The program is managed by MEDC Housing Development Director Mary Kircher.

In 2012, MEDC supported the $3.7 million East Ward Village project that created 27 rental units for low-income families and individuals. MEDC provided a $105,000 gap-financing loan to make that project a reality. The loan was made possible through LB840 funds.

In 2013, MEDC leveraged LB840 funds to conduct a formal housing study that provided specific housing information and revealed the need for up to 279 new housing units by 2023, including an estimated 147 owner housing units and 132 rentals. The study’s first action step was for the MEDC-Housing Office to work with both public and private sectors to encourage the development of housing programs with an emphasis on housing for young families, the local workforce, retirees and special populations.

Based on that information, MEDC initiated a partnership with Mesner Development, which suggested the Clary Village project north of the fairgrounds.

Clary Village

Clary Village

Because MEDC was able to leverage LB840 funds to extend sewer lines for the private North Pointe housing development, it was able to build the Clary project in the same neighborhood. Construction began on the $2.8 million Clary Village in March 2015, and now the eight duplexes (16 living units) are complete and occupied. A loan to the project of $180,000 in LB840 funds facilitated site acquisition and infrastructure installation. The units are intended for residents 55 and older and have income requirements.

Nelson said that besides providing 16 nice living units, the project has opened up at least seven single-family homes throughout McCook for others to purchase after residents moved out of those homes into the Clary homes.

Construction has begun on two homes in the neighboring North Pointe development, where another six lots are ready for buyers.

“We’re excited that North Pointe has some market rate housing construction going, and they have some demand for more,” Nelson said.

With Clary now complete, MEDC is starting to focus on the next housing project, in the same neighborhood – Quillan Courts. This project will create 16 rental units for low income individuals or families of all ages. This project includes 10 structures: four five-bedroom single family homes; four three-bedroom duplexes and eight four-bedroom duplexes. Construction is expected to start in May on this $3.5 million project.

MEDC staff continue to manage the rental properties and seek grants and other funding opportunities.

MEDC also initiated the recent Prairie Gold Homes project through initial conversations with Prairie Gold staff and creating a new McCook Community Builders investment group. Prairie Gold Homes is a non-profit organization that helps inmates gain job skills while building affordable, energy-efficient homes.

Prairie Gold Homes MCB LLC House

Prairie Gold Homes/McCook Community Builders, LLC Spec Home on East I Street

“It’s really a win/win,” Nelson said. “It’s a construction trades program to benefit the inmates, it helps the Work Ethic Camp carry out their mission and it helps us get new construction at an affordable price point.”

The first Prairie Gold home has already sold.

“I really don’t know how we could have made any of these projects work without LB840,” Nelson said of all the recent housing developments. “The cost of new construction has just become prohibitive for workforce housing, particularly when you throw in the cost of new infrastructure needed.”

For more information about McCook housing projects, please visit the MEDC web site at www.mccookne.org or call the MEDC at (308) 345-1200. The mission of the MEDC is to facilitate the formation, retention, attraction and expansion of businesses in McCook and the surrounding area.