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Megan Reese moved from Arkansas to Schuyler where she started in Human Resources at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Schuyler. Prior to moving into her new home, Reese was living at an extended stay motel in Columbus, NE.

Collaboration Solves Housing Shortages

Raising the Bar | Economic Growth and Opportunity | February 2018

In 2016 the Midwest Housing Development Fund, Inc. (MHDF) launched a new program to fund affordable workforce housing development in rural communities across Nebraska. “Our overall goal is to get units built,” says Lara Huskey, MHDF senior vice president. “There has been a lot of meetings, conversations, conferences and workshops talking about the need for workforce housing for the last four to five years but communities were not finding actual results in getting something in the ground and built.”

Peter Kiewit Foundation and The Sherwood Foundation each awarded MHDF $650,000 in funding to support the Nebraska Housing Initiative over a three-year period. The funding supports a $1,000,000 loan base to develop workforce housing in Nebraska communities and $300,000 for MHDF to provide community outreach and technical support.

The goal is to build 40 units and provide training and support to 30 communities over the next three years. The first project was completed in Schuyler last year and a second project is underway in Beatrice, Ne.

With a mission to promote sustainable community development and quality of life, MHDF has been providing resources and funding for the development of affordable low-income housing primarily in rural communities across the Midwest since 2000. MHDF leverages public and private resources to fill financing gaps for developers that are not being met by conventional and government sources. “When we come into a project, we come into it knowing that if we can’t provide the loan, the project is not going to be built,” Huskey says.

“No one entity is owning the problem or can fill all of these financial gaps. If everybody shares the risk and has a little different financing in the deal, that’s what tends to make it work.”

– Lara Huskey, MHDF senior vice president

“We expanded into workforce housing development because we were seeing a need in the communities we were already working in,” she says. Schools, businesses, and manufacturers can’t retain or attract employees because there is no place for them to live in the community.  So businesses are not able to grow and expand or, in many cases, meet existing needs. There’s a big gap between what’s available and what’s affordable for people in midlevel management positions, as well as people in service positions like teachers and healthcare workers, Huskey adds.

MHDF facilitates collaborative conversations and provides training and resources for community leaders to assess workforce housing needs in their communities, identify financing gaps, and develop their own community development housing funds.

Employers, local donors, banks, community leaders and developers are coming together to solve the workforce housing dilemma in rural communities. “No one entity is owning the problem or can fill all of these financial gaps,” Huskey says. “If everybody shares the risk and has a little different financing in the deal, that’s what tends to make it work.”

Visit Midwest Housing Development Fund here.

Work Force Housing Project in Schuyler, Nebraska

“The establishment of the Workforce Housing Project in Schuyler has been a needed shot-in-the-arm for all parties involved, which has helped Schuyler’s housing needs,” says Brian Bywater, Schuyler Community Development housing specialist. Schuyler’s three largest employers—Cargill Meat Solutions, Schuyler Community Schools and QC Supply provided rental guarantees to solidify financing requirements. Eight houses were built over eight months. One was sold and seven are currently leased primarily to employees of the Rental Guarantors. “The goal is to sell all of the homes within five years, and continue viable housing construction beyond that time,” Bywater says.

Alexis Bruha, Rachel DeWitt and Abby Krueger are all first-year teachers after graduating from Wayne State College. Schuyler Community Schools offered them an incentive plan to live in the Workforce Housing Project and teach in the district. They each received a $1,000 bonus for living in Schuyler and share a $5,000 incentive for living in the development. Another perk is living only 200 yards from where they work. The school is right across the street.