KC Belitz: Working on a strategic housing framework

Originally published in the Columbus Telegram

Nebraska Investment Finance Authority and several partners have laid out a new path to tackle one of Nebraska’s most complex and prevalent challenges. Over the past several months, a team convened by NIFA has been working to build a strategic housing framework for the state.

Developed in coordination with the Governor’s Office by the Strategic Housing Council, a coalition of representatives from government at all levels, local agencies, nonprofits and developers from across the state, the Framework aims to spur economic development and improve Nebraskan’s quality of life by increasing quality, affordable housing options.

The plan points out that Nebraska’s competitiveness and economic future hinge on solving the housing crisis. If we don’t ensure enough affordable and attainable housing Nebraska will not only lose out on billions of dollars economically, but it will also lose the people that call it home. We all know how a lack of employees is impacting local employers and it’s not likely those needed people are moving here without somewhere to live!

The plan defines two basic problems:

1 – Housing is unaffordable. 44% of Nebraskan households who earn $75,000 per year or less spend more than 30% of their gross income on housing, which is defined as “housing burdened.”

2 – There is insufficient diverse housing. There are inadequate safe and diverse housing options across Nebraska, leading to a limited workforce for employers and less vibrant communities, especially for the lowest-income Nebraskans, including seniors.

To address those challenges, the task force agreed on two goals or outcomes we are chasing:

1 – By 2028, reduce the number of households that are housing cost burdened by 44,000, decreasing it from 44% of low- to middle-income households to 33% or less.

2 – By 2028, develop and rehabilitate 35,000 affordable and attainable low- to middle-income rental and ownership housing units, including rehabilitating or infilling 3,000 unsafe or dilapidated properties, reducing the gap in the number of these types of units by approximately 33%.

Now that the plan has been written, the real work begins. Over the next five years, the team will pursue those goals through work groups in four pillars: Financial Support and Incentives for Development; Education and Policy; Safety Net and Special Populations; and Workforce & Community Capacity.

I’m excited to assist NIFA Director Shannon Harner on that fourth pillar, as it’s a natural fit with Nebraska Community Foundation work across the state. It might be that as you read about this, you get excited about participating in one of those work areas as well. To learn how you can advocate for or join the efforts of the Strategic Housing Council, or for a complete copy of the 2022 Strategic Housing Framework, visit nifa.org/housing-framework or email info@nifa.org. You can also join us February 8, 2023 at 4:00 PM (CT) for a special virtual session on Housing in Nebraska. Click here to register.

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