Nebraska Strategic Housing Council Releases Framework for Addressing State’s Housing Needs

The Nebraska Strategic Housing Council released Nebraska’s 2022 Strategic Housing Framework on January 5. The Framework addresses two main challenges: housing affordability and the lack of safe, diverse housing options across the state. The Framework establishes two shared priorities to pursue over the next five years: reducing the number of housing cost-burdened households by 44,000 and developing and rehabilitating 35,000 affordable and attainable homes.

“The great need for affordable housing that is shown within this plan is no surprise to the Nebraska Housing Developers Association and its members who have been advocating and developing affordable housing in Nebraska for over 25 years,” said Carol Bodeen, director of policy and outreach at the Nebraska Housing Developers Association (NHDA). “The Vision of the Framework states that ‘affordable housing is the driver of community wellbeing and economic opportunity’. We celebrate the attention that is being applied to affordable housing, and we applaud NIFA and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for their work on this project, as well as our other NHDA members who contributed.”

The Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) leads the Strategic Housing Council, a coalition of government officials, nonprofits, businesses, and housing developers. To inform the Council’s planning process, each Council member hosted small-group or one-on-one “Meetings in a Box” with community members to gauge their perceptions of the state’s housing needs. These conversations took place in April and May 2022. The Council synthesized takeaways from these conversations to identify challenges and ideal outcomes. The publication of Nebraska’s 2022 Statewide Housing Needs Assessment in June 2022 also provided insights for the Framework.

According to the Framework, 44% of Nebraskans earning less than $75,000 per year are housing cost-burdened. Rising construction and loan costs, limited developable land, regulations including zoning restrictions, and limited ability to take financial risks – especially for developers in rural areas – all contribute to housing unaffordability. The Framework also highlights NLIHC’s Gap data, which demonstrate that the shortage of affordable housing is most concentrated among the lowest-income renters. NLIHC’s Gap report shows that the lowest-income households face the greatest cost burdens, with 85% of extremely low-income Nebraska renters paying more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.

The Framework also describes the lack of diverse housing options and its impact on elderly Nebraskans, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, the working poor, and other communities. Root causes of the shortage of diverse housing include lack of construction workers and private capital (especially in rural areas), population growth that outpaces new housing development, and deteriorating housing stock. The Framework highlights the disproportionate impact of the housing shortage on historically underinvested communities. Participants in “Meeting in a Box” conversations emphasized the need for housing development that prioritizes access to transit, walkable communities, green spaces, and other amenities. Residents of historically underinvested communities also pointed to the potential of mixed-income development to reduce the concentration of poverty, provide more resources for public schools, and promote integration. In both urban and rural communities, the lack of diverse housing options prevents employers from hiring new workers and discourages new businesses from relocating, which constrains the state’s overall economic development. Rural areas especially struggle to attract the resources and expertise that are necessary to develop sufficient housing.

The Framework includes a Package of Strategies that recommend policy solutions in response to the shortage of affordable housing in Nebraska, including four strategic pillars: financial support and incentives for development, education and policy, special populations and a safety net, and workforce and community capacity. Each strategic pillar encompasses a set of goals to be achieved by 2028.

To improve financial support and incentives for development, the Framework sets out three goals for the state: to prioritize flexible and efficient state funding for housing initiatives and program improvements, to create or strengthen collaborative and diverse funding structures that enable communities to meet their needs, and to establish new state and local financial policies that incentivize affordable housing development and risk mitigation. The priority actions that fall within this pillar are to secure diverse, dedicated revolving or recurring statewide housing funding sources that draw from national best practices and are tailored to specific income brackets; to provide tools or programs that de-risk development for rural and small developers; to leverage diverse funding sources; and to pilot a social impact bond to invest in local supportive housing. This strategy proposes a subcommittee of the Strategic Housing Council that would make recommendations to improve the flexibility and efficiency of existing state housing programs and tax incentives, and the strategy encourages the state to evaluate the use of “American Rescue Plan Act” State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to inform future investments, including preparedness to effectively harness future federal funds. This pillar also recommends the creation of a Strategic Housing Council workgroup dedicated to developing model recommendations, policies, and practices for local housing finance; exploration of further state incentives for housing development; and support for current and new housing innovation programs that encourage unique approaches to the creation of affordable housing.

The education and policy pillar focuses on ways to overcome limited capacity and enable communities to learn from others’ experiences. The priority action that falls under this pillar is to create a model toolkit that addresses how local communities can develop affordable and attainable housing. The toolkit should include model building codes, ordinances, incentives, and other resources that enable local governments to identify best practices, reduce burdensome and time-consuming procedures, account for needs specific to each community, identify mechanisms to remove common barriers to housing development, and provide materials that are accessible to all Nebraskans. In addition, the Strategic Housing Council should work with a land use and zoning consultant to develop a series of best practices, including a model zoning code, that is applicable across Nebraska. The Council should also work with county and city planners to adopt charter amendments or pass ordinances to facilitate infill housing, upzoning, and manufactured housing. To inform educational resources and policy change, the Strategic Housing Council should partner with the League of Municipalities to define barriers to diversified housing across Nebraska. The second goal that is part of the education and policy pillar is to engage state, community, and municipal leaders on the need for diverse housing options to create healthy, vibrant housing markets where people want to live. Achieving this goal will require educating public officials and their staff about how to incentivize affordable and diversified housing, which will cultivate elected officials and other decision-makers to be housing champions that lead in the process of implementing the Framework.

The third pillar sets out to provide accessible, fully integrated housing to meet the needs of low-income people, people with fixed incomes, and special populations. The first priority action that falls under this pillar is to support the development of 10,000 affordable homes for those earning less than $22,000 per year. Achieving this goal will require developing rental homes with supportive services, creating subsidies and incentives to rehabilitate older neighborhoods for affordable housing, advocating to increase funding for existing federal housing programs, and expanding state-funded programs to build deeply subsidized housing. This pillar also recommends studying the cliff effect of public assistance programs on housing stability, identifying best practices from other states, and making recommendations to the state legislature and agencies on how to mitigate cliff effects. Finally, this pillar sets the goal of ending chronic homelessness in Nebraska by advocating for and committing to implementing Nebraska’s statewide plan for ending homelessness, “Opening Doors: 10-Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in the State of Nebraska.”

The fourth pillar focuses on strengthening all communities’ capacity to design, develop, and implement housing solutions with a sufficient and sustainable workforce that allows Nebraska to grow economically. The priority actions that fall within this pillar include developing a home building academy that supports and expands existing education in the construction trades, offering a package of solutions to increase homeownership among Nebraska’s workforce, and incentivizing manufactured housing to alleviate workforce challenges in rural Nebraska. This pillar recommends incentivizing employers to invest in housing and community economic development, building rural communities’ capacity to promote readiness for housing development, and establishing a network of rural regional builders to create a more consistent project pipeline, among other strategies. Finally, this pillar establishes the goal of increasing the number of people working in the construction trades by redeveloping the construction trade pipeline in primary, secondary, and non-formal education (including a home building academy), encouraging communities to take on financial risk and support the establishment of a local building industry, streamlining the licensure process to better match work opportunities with skills and education, and creating incentives to ensure that manufactured housing produced in Nebraska stays within the state.

To make progress towards the Framework’s goals, workgroups dedicated to each of the four pillars will meet monthly. The Strategic Housing Council will continue to meet three times annually to track progress, ensure coordination between the workgroups and statewide housing practitioners, and consider updates to the Shared Priorities.

To read the complete Strategic Housing Framework, visit: