Housing grant

ASHLAND – The number of units allocated to Saunders County communities participating in an owner-occupied housing grant program has shifted after one village withdrew.

The City of Ashland, acting as the lead applicant for a Saunders County program, was awarded $500,000 for a housing rehabilitation program planned for multiple communities through the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF), operated by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (NDED).

Originally, five communities were planning to participate in the program – Ashland, Wahoo, Prague, Yutan and Ceresco. However, the Village of Ceresco recently dropped out, according to Jim Warrelmann, housing program manager for the Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD), which helped with the grant application.

Each community must commit to a 10 percent cash match for the project. The Ceresco village board had approved a match for two units, which would have cost them $9,450. However, the board voted at a recent meeting to not participate in the program.

Ceresco Village Clerk Joan Lindgren said the village board of trustees withdrew the original pledge during its April 24 meeting. In minutes from the meeting published on the village’s website, village board members said they felt it was not the best use of tax dollars to pay the 10 percent match and the cost dues to belong to SENDD, which would be required to participate. All five village board members voted yes to a motion to cancel the projects.

After Ceresco withdrew from the program, the two units originally assigned to the village were reassigned to Ashland, giving them seven in total. Wahoo will have five units, Yutan four and Prague two.

Warrelmann said there were more pre-applications submitted in Wahoo than any other community, but the Wahoo City Council opted to use only five of the units so other communities in the county could participate.

“It was very nice of them to do,” he said.

The City of Wahoo plans to pursue other Community Development Block Grants as a way to help homeowners who do not get selected for the NAHTF program, Wahoo City Administrator Melissa Harrell said earlier this summer.

The grant provides up to $24,999 per household for rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements, including income, assets, and home ownership. Mobile homes and rental properties are not eligible. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

The next step in the process is obtaining the release of funds from the NDED, Warrelmann said, and to do that a number of things have to happen, including an environmental review. The deadline to complete these activities is the end of 2019, he added.

Once the funds are released, they will work on scheduling inspections, reviewing applications and awarding jobs, Warrelmann said.

Ashland accepted the role as the program administrator for Saunders County in February when SENDD came to them with the request. The city’s responsibility includes billing and paying contractors.

Ashland City Administrator Jessica Quady said they will also be setting up a housing committee made up of representatives from each participating community. The committee will work with SENDD to choose the applicants.

Homeowners that pre-applied earlier this year will be sent a full application, Quady said.

Other homeowners in the participating communities are also welcome to request a full application, regardless if they pre-applied.

“It’s open to anybody that wants to apply,” said Warrelmann.

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