$1.134 million available for housing projects


About $1.134 million is available for developers and those looking to undertake new housing or housing rehabilitation projects in Seward County through the Rural Workforce Housing Fund.

The fund, administered by the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership and Seward County Bridges, holds funds appropriated by the state and matched by local donors.

“It’s open to anyone that fits within the guidelines of the Rural Workforce Housing Fund program,” said Jonathan Jank, president and CEO of the SCCDP.

The money can be spent in three ways:

• New owner-occupied homes up to $325,000 per unit, including the lot cost;

• New renter-occupied housing up to $250,000 per unit ($500,000 for a duplex), including the lot cost; and 

• Housing renovations costing 50% or more of the home’s total value.

“There are no income eligibility guidelines. It’s only tied to the end price of the units,” Jank said.

The fund is meant to provide gap financing for projects that have another main source of funding.

“There’s an expectation that whoever’s working on a project is going to get their financing from some lending institution,” Jank said.

The fund provides loans to developers that are then repaid and recycled out for other projects.

Those interested may fill out an application available from the SCCDP.

Applications are reviewed by a working group, which then makes a recommendation to the SCCDP’s executive committee for approval.

“As part of our application for this funding, (we) have to submit letters of intent from developers,” said Jacob Jennings, director of community affairs for the SCCDP.

Jennings said so far, he has letters from four potential developers for projects in Milford, Seward and Utica, though those letters don’t automatically mean the projects will receive funding or that the developers are held to completing the projects.

Jennings said there is no deadline to apply, but the funds must be used within a certain time frame specified by the state.

“The sooner the better,” he said.

Jank said the first round of Rural Workforce Housing money Seward County received in 2022 totaled $1.26 million.

It made up about 10% of the gap financing needed for four projects:

• Renovation of the former Crestview Care Center in Milford to First Street Flats, a 21-unit apartment complex;

• Eight new townhouses on the site of the former Seward Middle School;

• Seven townhouse lots and seven single-family lots in Bronco Heights, the site of the former Utica Community Care Center; and

• A 48-unit apartment complex set to break ground this spring across from Pac ‘N’ Save in Seward.

“I really hope that this helps establish builders or developers as well as up-and-coming builders or developers, that it gives them a chance to build units that are needed in the market,” Jank said.

The Rural Workforce Housing Fund, he said, is meant to support the “missing middle” types of housing, such as apartments or homes that are affordable for people in the workforce.

“It’s hard to make the numbers work based on the cost of building in general – labor, materials, the cost of capital, interest. The Rural Workforce Housing Fund helps buy down those costs and mitigates the risk to build housing that supports people that work, such as families that are looking for their first-time home or people just trying to get into the market for the first time,” Jank said.

He said the program has helped people land and grow in Seward County.

“Apartment units are so critical. People can’t work here if they can’t get into a housing unit to start,” Jank said. “We want them to be quality. We want them to have a good idea what our county is about.”

An application and guidelines for the program are available by contacting Jennings at (402) 643-4189 or jacob@cultivatesewardcounty.com.