Phelps County Development Expands Housing Initiatives with Downtown Focus
GO!Home Program also expanded to include Employee Relocation Renter’s program
A concerted effort is underway in Phelps County to address housing needs in the county and thus, assist in workforce retention and attraction.
The Phelps County Development Corporation (PCDC) created the GO! DREAM programs to continue downtown revitalization efforts started five years ago and to give building owners the resources they need to bring to life the dreams they have for their historic buildings.
“This is what we are doing downtown because people have dreams for these buildings,” said Carley Bruning, PCDC’s Director of Business Services. “We want future generations to continue to enjoy these buildings.”
The Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance Mission (DREAM) offers downtown building owners an opportunity to receive major grants to update building facades and replace signs and lighting, and low-interest loans to bring buildings up to code to create downtown living units. The DREAM program replaces the First Impression Grants that had been offered during the past year.
PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said Holdrege has several “vulnerable” downtown buildings that are in need of some TLC. These larger grants and loans will give building owners the resources they need to save these buildings.
“We want to celebrate these buildings that are distinctive and worth saving,” Tillery said.
Tillery said design standards will be set requiring owners receiving grants and loans to make long-lasting and quality renovations instead of “putting Band-aids” on a building.
“We recognize that one of the biggest challenges with old buildings is to bring them up to standards,” Tillery said. “That’s the biggest obstacle that owners face in converting upper spaces to living spaces.”
The GO! DREAM program offers three incentives:
1) First Impression Building Façade Grants:
- Up to $10,000 in matching grants to improve building facades
- Up to $2,500 in matching grants to new signs and exterior lighting
- Grants may also be combined with low-interest flex loan program for major renovations
2) Code Compliance Grant To Create Downtown Living Units:
- Up to $10,000 in matching grants per new living unit created in downtown Holdrege (if five living units are created, up to $50,000 in grants could be awarded). Work may include fire and safety, electrical, plumbing, structural and other related work to make outdated buildings habitable. Grants may be combined with flex loan program
3) Flex Loan Major Renovations:
- For interior or exterior major renovations costing more than $10,000
- These low-interest loans must be paired with a bank loan and may be combined with other PCDC grant programs. PCDC loans cannot exceed 50 percent of the total financing package.
With the new DREAM program, a single building owner could get up to $42,500 in matching grants if they plan to create three new living units plus update their building’s façade and signage. ($10,000 for each living unit, $10,000 for the façade and $2,500 for the sign).
Tillery said that in addition to offering these new incentives, PCDC is revisiting a downtown revitalization study that was conducted in 2013.
The study led to updated sidewalks, lighting, curbs, landscaping and other improvements to downtown Holdrege.
“But, we didn’t accomplish everything,” Tillery said. “What we want to do is to take stock of where what was done and what was left undone.”
Tillery said creating living units and continuing revitalization efforts will lead to positive vibes downtown, which is the heart of the community. It is hoped that these efforts will encourage new residents to locate in Holdrege and spark continued economic development and business growth.
PCDC has also expanded its GO! Home program to include a $1,000 grant for new renters.
The Employee Relocation Renter’s Program provides an incentive to encourage commuting employees or new employees to rent homes or apartments in Phelps County.
“This is all part of our efforts to turn commuters into full-time Phelps County residents,” PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said. “We want to give those commuters every opportunity to find a home in Phelps County.”
The initial GO! Home program included a down-payment assistance grant for employees who purchase homes in the county. PCDC would match an employer’s grant of up to $2,500 for employees purchasing homes. In the first year of the program, 46 people moved to the county as a result of the program.
However, Tillery said that many employees are not in a position to purchase a home, but they may still need some assistance or an extra incentive to move.
With the new renter program, the employee must sign a one-year lease in Phelps County to qualify. The employer completes the grant application on behalf of the employee, and the grant is paid to the employer. Grants may be used for moving expenses, rent, deposits or other uses outlined by the employer.
The great news is that after the one-year lease, the employee could also be eligible for the down-payment assistance grant to purchase a home.
Portions of this article courtesy of Phelps County Development Corporation
Holdrege is a wholesale electric customer of Nebraska Public Power District. Other communities in Phelps County are served by Southern Power District, an NPPD wholesale partner.