By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
An ongoing study reports that Grand Island needs more housing.
Wednesday, local leaders learned how they could potentially fund those projects with federal dollars.
The Grand Island Economic Development Corporation's Housing Steering Committee heard from Department of Housing and Urban Development. They learned that if they want certain funding, more of those studies will be needed.
Three Nebraska communities -- Grand Island, Omaha and Fremont -- have been identified by HUD for Community Needs Assessment. It could mean funding from several federal agencies including the EPA and Department of Transportation.
"Organizations with substantial federal backing and federal dollars," said Chad Nabity, director of Grand Island/Hall County Regional Planning.
Only Omaha has been asked to apply this year. HUD Field Office Director Earl Redrick said he hopes Grand Island can do the same next year.
"We didn't have a vision or a comprehensive development plan," he said. "We didn't think that the industry and partners were in the right alignment or had been in communication with each other to sit down and start having those discussions."
Nabity said that's happening. The housing study is just the latest example. Nabity said sewer, water, electric, utilities and transportation plans are all in the works. The Metropolitan Planning Commission and the mayor's Grand Vision Project are also focusing on these discussions.
There's also a decision to be made since the city has hit the 50,000 population mark. Should Grand Island become an entitlement community, changing the way they receive funds from the HUD?
"The funds come directly to the city and not to the state," explained Redrick. "They have maybe a little greater discretion and flexibility in what those users are and what they go to."
Getting an estimated $360,000 a year without having to apply to the state for it seems like a no-brainer, but officials say it's not that simple.
"It's administratively intense. It's going to require somebody oversee and administer the program," said Redrick.
"If we become an entitlement community we answer directly to the federal government and the state isn't a part of that, which means we're responsible for a whole host of additional compliance issues," Nabity added.
Grand Island is following them now, but the state's on the hook if something goes wrong.
If Grand Island becomes an entitlement community, there are stipulations. Twenty percent of the funding can go to administration costs, 70 percent to low income projects and 15 percent for public service projects.
Redrick said the city deferred the decision last year and will need to take it up again by this Fall.