The City of Columbus is moving forward with plans to create a workforce housing subdivision, which will include a variety of housing types.
The Columbus City Council during its regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, tentatively approved an agreement between the City and Nels Johnson for the purchase of a parcel of land (approximately 25 acres) in the vicinity of north 8th Street and 9th Avenue for $790, 965.
Back in August 2023, the City announced that with approval from the Council, it would take $1 million out of its sales tax discretionary funds from this (2024-2025) fiscal year budget to put toward a city workforce/affordable housing subdivision.
The City is aiming to develop a vibrant housing community catering to the needs of the local workforce by purchasing parcel(s) of land (at least 20 acres) close to the city limits and putting in all the initial infrastructure in hopes of incentivizing developers to build while minimizing their risk.
Under this scenario, the builders only carry the expense of the build until the units sell or a letter of occupancy has been issued and don’t have to shoulder the cost of purchasing an entire track of land and building out the infrastructure.
The City of Columbus put out a land Request for Proposals (RFP) in 2023. Five proposals were received and heavily analyzed by City Administration and Engineering Department before officials made a selection.
(ABOUT THE IMAGE: Pictured is an image of the land the City of Columbus is looking to purchase.)
City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen is overseeing the project for the City and said she’s excited to see it progress. She called the land being approved for purchase an ideal spot, noting it’s close to an existing residential neighborhood and is in close proximity to existing infrastructure like sewer, water and stormwater. She also noted the area has some commercial assets close by, such as a gas station and retail store.
The next step will be accepting housing builder RFPs through Feb. 15, 2024. The City will get the land totally ready for development, everything from grading, water, sewer, electric and other infrastructure, before selling buildable lots.
“The goal is to get this 25 acres built out in one year,” City Administrator Tara Vasicek told the City Council during the meeting. “We’ve sent out 30 builders RFPs and had an overwhelmingly positive response from builders…”
Vasicek and Van Iperen said they see the subdivision featuring a wide variety of housing types, both owner occupied and rentals, with a range of affordability for residents, such as townhomes, high-density housing, small apartment complexes and even accommodations for senior-style living. The idea is that it will be home to people of all ages and backgrounds, and done by numerous builders and developers.
Vasicek told the Council during the Jan. 15 meeting City staff believe this initial 25 acres will most likely be high-density housing and will ultimately be determined by which builder RFPs are accepted, but reiterated the entire subdivision will ultimately be a mix of various kinds.
It was also noted staff will be bringing platting, zoning, annexation and redevelopment plans for the land before the Council prior to final closing. There are other contingencies and special requirements in place to protect the City, including the seller being required to support the redevelopment plan necessary for Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Tax Increment Financing is a state authorized incentive cities and developers may use to help pay for infrastructure in blighted and substandard areas. TIF is utilized as a tool to stimulate economic development in the designated blighted and substandard areas.
“So far it has gone really well,” Vasicek said of the process, adding the City also put in an application for a Rural Workforce Housing grant from the State of Nebraska that would go towards the infrastructure buildout if received.
The Council unanimously approved (7-0) the purchase of the property at the conclusion of the public hearing (Councilwoman Hope Freshour was absent) following a motion by Councilman Charlie Bahr that was seconded by Councilman Ron Schilling.
Those who have questions about the Request for Proposal the housing subdivision project can contact Van Iperen at email@example.com.
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