Although the dynamics of Brian Bywater’s job are intricate, the overlying concept is pretty straight forward.
“Basically, my job is to be a catalyst for housing construction in Schuyler, in a nutshell,” said Bywater, who in 2014 took over the created position of community housing specialist for Schuyler Community Development.
The need for such a position is great. Since 1990, the population in Schuyler has increased at least 50 percent, Bywater said, who noted that the housing market hasn’t been able to keep stride with that growth.
Fortunately for Schuyler residents and the numerous people currently commuting into town for work, progress is being made in regard to providing some affordable housing. These developments will not only provide viable living options to those currently living in Schuyler but also for those looking to permanently integrate themselves into the diverse community.
A housing study completed in early 2018 assessed some of the major housing needs in Schuyler and resulted in Schuyler Economic Development receiving a lump sum of approximately $1.7 million from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) and Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA). A portion of that sum was also locally funded, he added.
The money serves as a revolving loan fund that is currently benefiting two housing projects and will continue to serve as a low-interest economic pot the community will be able to benefit from moving forward, Bywater said.
The first project, being constructed near the intersection of 22nd and H streets, is a 24-unit market rate apartment complex consisting of one, two and three-bedroom apartments. The complex’s units, expected to be rented out in August, will run in the price range of $650-$1,250 monthly, Bywater said.
“We really haven’t had a lot of housing growth over the last 25-30 years to keep pace with the growing population that Schuyler has had,” Bywater said, noting the importance of current development.
The complex is well underway on the plot of land, with work being completed on the third floor of one apartment building.
The second major project currently under construction consists of two townhome buildings - four total living units – being erected on the west end of 22nd Street. The for-sale-only living quarters are running in the neighborhood of $159,000 per-unit, are 1,400 square feet each, have two to three bedrooms and two-car garages.
Substantial work has already been completed on one townhome and in the near future, work is expected to begin on the other structure being built on an adjacent property.
Bywater noted that though the apartment complex offers a solid renting option, the townhomes are great for people looking to set more permanent roots.
“Really, that $160,000 price range is really the sweet spot for Schuyler,” he said of purchasing a home, noting that the townhomes are expected to be livable by mid-summer.
One townhome unit, he added, is already committed for all intents and purposes.
Jackie Farrell, economic development coordinator for Schuyler Community Development and executive director of the Schuyler Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke highly of the ability to secure funding to jump-start these two projects.
“It’s been amazing, and Brian has just done a fantastic job with all of that,” Farrell said of securing substantial funding through the grant process … "If we would not have received that and would not have had the partnerships that we’ve had, we would not have the options going forward that we do.”
In rural Nebraska, the ability to find ways to grow is paramount. While other small communities around the state have steadily declined in population throughout the years, Schuyler has continued growing. The work is there – at any given time there are around 200 job openings at Cargill alone, Bywater said.
Having the ability to provide quality living at an affordable rate is a double-edged sword for the Schuyler community as a whole.
“It’s important to have a recruitment and retention tool,” Bywater said. “If people buy a place in a community they tend to live there longer, they miss work less, they become more engaged in the community.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.