Shortage of rentals 'desperate'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The frustrating lack of rental houses and apartments for singles and families in McCook, Nebraska, seems to have started with the closing of St. Catherine's Apartments two years ago. Barb Ostrum, community service coordinator of the McCook office of Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, told Red Willow County commissioners Monday morning that the lack of rental housing is forcing some to live in their cars or move into desperately inadequate housing. (Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The lack of rental properties in McCook, Nebraska, is "desperate."

Barb Ostrum, community service coordinator of the McCook office of Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, asked Red Willow County commissioners to consider the plight of seven more families looking for rental housing if the county purchases and then demolishes the two two-story apartment houses at 520 Norris as the county makes way for the possible construction of a jail north of the courthouse.

The county purchased the two-story apartment house at 524 Norris in December 2009. Five families had to find other housing when commissioners declined to get the county into the rental business. Commissioners got no takers when they offered the house for sale to be moved off the lot. It was eventually torn down.

"The lack of rental property in McCook is at an all-time high," Ostrum said. "The supply of rental stock in McCook is so desperate, I've found squatters. We've had a mother with two young children living in their car in Karrer Park. We have several working young men living in their cars -- all because they can't find places to rent."

Ostrum continued, "I'm really, really concerned. And now there are going to be another seven families looking for places to live."

Ostrum said, "There are lots of good people who can't find a place to live. Lots of these people have jobs -- they just can't find (affordable) rental housing."

Ostrum told commissioners she is especially concerned about those trying to live in their cars. "The weather's a big concern," she said. "It's getting chilly." Commissioner Steve Downer added, " ... go to sleep with your car running, you might wake up dead."

Ostrum said the desperate and frustrating rental situation in McCook started when St. Catherine's Apartments closed two years ago in December, and 28 families found themselves looking for other rental housing. "We've never recouped from that," Ostrum told commissioners.

Ostrum said she knows that houses for sale are sometimes made available for rent, "but not everyone wants to become a landlord, for whatever reason." Even many of the mobile homes in McCook are on a rent-to-own basis, which is not in the futures or are beyond the finances of renters, she said. There is little, if any, federal funding for purchase-rehab-rent properties, she said.

Ostrum said that nothing has been built for renters in McCook for about 10 years. The East Ward Village project, which will provide 15 one- and two-bedroom low-income housing units for seniors and six duplexes and six garages, is in the works and isn't an immediate solution, she said. Even then, those units won't be available to young singles, couples or families. They may, however, open up houses when seniors move into the East Ward units, Ostrum said.

The rental inventory in Culbertson and Indianola are also tight, Ostrum said. Anything beyond those two communities, and the high cost of gas and a trustworthy vehicle become additional drains on a family's budget, she said.

Ostrum admitted she doesn't have the answers. She told commissioners, "I'm frustrated. There are people moving into places that are not safe, not decent, barely meeting minimum standards. But they're desperate."

Anyone with rental property is encouraged to contact Ostrum at (308) 345-1187.

View 18 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • I just want them to tear down St. Catherine's. I'm pretty sure there are squatters in there too. The windows are starting to be broken and it looks awful.

    There are houses to rent all the time in McCook. I really don't see a need for more government subsidized low income housing.

    -- Posted by cq22 on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 2:15 PM
  • I guess I'm out of the loop. Who owns the old hospital? Nat Romanoff used to....did that change since his death. What a great place for apartments.

    -- Posted by Pierre on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 6:54 PM
  • You can be a landlord and rent, but laws aren't in place to protect the landlord only the tenant. Try to get a tenant out that hasn't paid their rent for months.

    -- Posted by mccookie on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 8:11 PM
  • @ cq22,

    I thought that this housing shortage was a farce as well, but I have a guy that just moved here to work for my company and he absolutely CAN'T find a place to rent. He actually found a place three weeks ago and moved from his car to this house. He was recently evicted because he wouldn't pay the deposit so there is at least one place open for rent.

    As a side note, he didn't pay the deposit as it had no running water in the bathroom and no heat at all. He's recently upgraded to a pull behind trailer that he just acquired.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 8:40 PM
  • When I was looking to move back to McCook 3 1/2 years ago there was little to rent that we could afford. Most rents for houses that would even fit for our needs were $500 or more. I was able to sell my house where I was moving from and used the proceeds to buy a small house large enough to fit my family. However, it is older and not very energy efficient. I feel for those looking to rent because there aren't many affordable places to live. I hear people all the time looking for affordable places. And even then the affordable ones are not all that fit for people or bleed a person dry in the utilities. Nationwide there is a shortage in affordable housing. Increase in housing costs and people earning less at their jobs has created this crisis. It is very concerning as we enter colder temperatures. I hope some of you nay sayers that this isn't a problem understand that looking at seeing another apartment building closing is going to stress a bad rental market even more. Start looking at what a person needs to earn to afford housing and you will get an eye opener.

    -- Posted by love2liveinmccook on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 9:50 PM
  • Rentals are so very scarse. I feel for anyone that is currently looking. And, the comment about tenants have more rights than renters...hardly. I lived in a home for 18 months, paid on-time 95% of the time, made arrangements the other 5%, and had to live with a house that leaked all the time. The roof, the basement. However, I had no choice. I looked for 6-9 months before I found the house I am now in. I was told when consulting renter/tenant laws, that I choose to live there, I have to pay rent, or I have the free choice to move. I have helped friends look and for each place that comes open, there is only about 15-25 applicants for the property. And, in response to another previous comment, low-income housing is not what I think Mrs. Ostrum is only looking for. There is a lack of housing all around. There are several families out there, such as myself, that are self-sufficient, but can not find anything to rent. Several turn to Mrs. Ostrum to help, as that what her agency is for. They are not all necessarily low-income families looking for a hand-out. And, when getting rental lists from area realtors (which is such a great service-thank you!!), it becomes increasingly frustrating when renters do not remove their listings after they have rented them and refuse to return phone calls. Shows a lack of professionalism. Hopefully, this turns around! Good luck to those looking!!

    -- Posted by ashleywalkington on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 10:05 PM
  • With all the forclosed properties, there's a huge demand for rental properties nationwide. Bad for people looking for a rental, great for realtors.

    On the flip side, home prices are at an all time low as are interest rates which has never been seen before. In many areas, It's cheaper to buy a home than it is to rent if you can qualify for a loan, which while is harder than the times of easy credit, isn't really out of reach for many. With an FHA loan you only need 3.5 down.

    Reading comments from friends on facebook, they've had problems finding housing in McCook also.

    -- Posted by npwinder on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 11:30 PM
  • My daughter and family have worked in this area and started out in low income apts, (which was a nightmare) then a rental that had mold in the basement and scary electrical system (which the landlord refused to fix properly). She was also told when she tried to get advice on making the landlord do something about the mold, that NE had no housing mold laws and there was nothing anyone could 'make' anyone do about it. The price she had to pay for rent was ridiculous. It took months, but she finally BEGGED a homeowner with their house on the market to rent to her, even though they can't afford it. Even though it is a little tight for them, they will NO WAY give it up because of no where else to go.

    -- Posted by datarep on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 7:27 AM
  • Yet we still have people like "Jlake" who go after the few people actually building homes in this area. Do any of you see the points I have been making on this website about building housing around McCook yet? I am not saying that building brand new homes is the answer to the problem above, but I AM saying that at least there is SOMEONE doing SOMETHING around this town...not regressing. Who knows, it could be a domino effect! Someone buys a newly built home, and their current home becomes available to renters or buyers. I apologize for digressing, but my frustrations in the past seem vindicated with these continued articles in the gazette about a lack of housing...people saying that they've turned down jobs "because there was no housing in McCook."

    -- Posted by speak-e-z on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 7:56 AM
  • I jail is the last thing they need anyway. Use the McCook jail when needed and send them to other towns like they have been. Maybe they can use the money they recovered from the Helicopter parts and kits they retrieved and build a jail on vacant property.

    -- Posted by geewhiz on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 9:30 AM
  • Most of the people mentioned in the article that can't find housing are employed but don't earn a wage large enough to be able to qualify for a home loan so renting is their only option. According to a report I just read the average person even renting has to earn $18.44 per hour to afford a 2 bedroom house. That's a pretty high wage. Just some food for thought.

    -- Posted by love2liveinmccook on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 1:53 PM
  • To go along with what love 2 live had to say, People that work, have children, and attempt to make it on their own, but cannot, do not, can not, will not, and are removed from assistance in every way shape or form based on their ability to get work. The problem I see with this happens over and over, and that is, it makes those individuals that need assistance less likely to work, and therefore require more assistance. The system is completely and utterly broken. Assist those that are willing to go out and actually work.

    -- Posted by cplcac on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 4:56 PM
  • OH cplcac you are completely right there. Reward those who are gainfully employed and do what the can to keep their job rather than the ones who are able to work full and choose not to so that they can live off the rest of those who do work. I am going back to school to attain better work to take care of my family. The system definitely needs overhauled.

    -- Posted by love2liveinmccook on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 5:53 PM
  • Just checking adds in paper and seeing rentals availble in new/big complex on old golf course and several others listed by owner??? shortage not the problem ??... The problem is income issue vs availablity because you can not build new apts unless govt help/subidize and make it work in private sector from personal experience and Barbs/article of renters are caught in tough situation . I would thinks with all empty houses in area towns like Lebanon,Danbury,Indianola,Culbertson,Stratton finding affordable housing in McCook area a special new rent finders group could identify/empty homes that could be livable in all local towns and mccook with little home owners work done to be rented at below market prices/or sell them on private contract to prospective renters and give them ownership vs broken down house and no tax value and entire problem could be solved if renters willing to drive outside of McCook and all local area town pickup some needed population.

    -- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Thu, Oct 27, 2011, at 12:34 PM
  • This is exciting! I wasn't aware of any big complexes for rent on the golf course.... Are you sur this wasn't in Curtis?

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Thu, Oct 27, 2011, at 6:47 PM
  • We have a rental property but it needs to be fixed up. We can't find anyone to do the work. Everyone is too busy. We have waited for months to pay someone to do any work on the house we live in. Funny, huh?

    -- Posted by Grandma B on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 11:04 AM
  • Well this is just my luck. I have been looking for a rental here in town ever since I was pretty much forced to put a 30 day notice to my previous rental on Oct 1st. To make a long story short there were one too many people on the lease and me being from out of state, not knowing anybody, and being the nieve person I am; signed my life away back in the begining of August but its just being month to month. I have come to find out my boyfriend and I must have paired up with the wrong person because with three other people living in the place that were not on the lease for over a month with no payment along with other issues was just to name the least. Now its Nov 13th, and the only other person I did know renting out the basement part of his home, I ended up recommending it to my little sister who was in desperate need of a change and is now here in town as well living comfortably along with her two dogs and her other half. Now because I am the way I am and make sure everyone is taken care of first, assumed I would find something one way or another. Ha!! Homeless going from one place to the other just to shower (all you who have a car are lucky!) is a stress in its own just so I can make it to work on time looking presentable. I came here to leave all the distractions back home and rebuild my life and I am in a worse position now than I have ever been.

    -- Posted by loveurgrl002 on Sun, Nov 13, 2011, at 11:20 AM
  • the low income is a good idea but what if only one person working and they have a child and they end up charging you $400 rent when pay checks are only 600 at the most... you have to pay electricity and do laundry all of that adds up and then we have people behind in rent and threatened to be evicted even though you pay the landlord in two separate payments... its not fair..

    -- Posted by aubdixon on Wed, Nov 4, 2015, at 12:17 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: