Deanna Perry of Shelby showed up at a June 13 meeting on rural housing opportunities with a perplexing problem.
The village treasurer said there are no housing lots in the Polk County community of just more than 700 residents. The lots are either occupied with existing houses or are already been bought by other individuals.
“There are no lots available,” said Perry, who planned to return to her village board members and report on the more than hour-long meeting – Hometown Housing Opportunities – Building Communities Together – at the David City Public Library.
Perry said Shelby is surrounded by farm ground, with no space available to carve out housing lots for new construction.
“People either move or sell,” said Perry, describing the frustration some feel as lack of availability and affordability of rural housing that limits the village’s growth. “I’ll report to the village board.”
The USDA Rural Development’s mission on June 13 in David City and at similar meetings in other rural communities is to get the word out and let people know that there are programs and funds available to improve the quality of life and economic opportunities of rural residents, said Michael Buethe, director of the agency’s housing program.
“We’re sending the word that these programs are available for single-family rural housing,” said Buethe, adding rural development had previously participated in financing mortgage loans for 25 homes in Butler County, Gillespie Apartments in David City and water and waste projects in Bellwood, Stromsburg and Shelby.
The focus of the rural development presentation was on single-family housing, including two of the federal agency’s loan programs that required no down payments, one involving financing from the agency and the other also involving a local lender.
The agency is trying to put potential buyers in loan situations in which they get the pride of ownership while also purchasing something they can afford and to stay in if they suffer a financial setback, said the director of the Lincoln-based agency.
“We want to assist rural communities,” he said.
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All Nebraska’s communities eligible for participation in the loan programs, with the exception of Fremont, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha and South Sioux/Dakota City.
Mortgage limits range from $170,000 to $190,000 (depending on county).
Eligibility for the loans, loan guarantees and grants is based on family income and varies according to the average median income for each county.
Krista Mettscher, the agency’s single family housing specialist, told the sparse audience that the “wow factor” for rural development’s home loan programs was that they allowed 100-percent financing.
In rural communities, that allows rural families to build assets while also attracting newcomers to the community and stirring business growth, she said.
“No down payment (for a home) comes in pretty handy,” said Mettscher, adding the federal agency programs accounted for $119 million in rural single-family housing last year.
A University of Nebraska extension educator said that rural housing is not only a big concern in Nebraska, but an issue throughout America.
Affordability, quality and variety been issues for communities that are looking for new residents or getting the “kids” to come back home and settle down to raise families, said Kurt Montonya, director of the extension service’s Community Vitality initiative.
Montonya, based in Lincoln but who operates an office in David City, said Kansas has done a good job with rural opportunity zones on housing.
Jim Osborn is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.