Regional cooperation key to landing new worker housing grant

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Congratulations to Andy Long and the McCook Economic Development Corp., as well as his counterparts at Cambridge and Benkelman for landing a $400,000 grant to deal with our workforce housing shortage.

Itís a small start, a revolving loan fund to create only a couple of single-family dwellings initially, but it does open a desperately needed channel for future progress.

Perhaps more importantly, it points the way to the kind of regional cooperation needed to overcome shared challenges like declining population, struggling farm economy and other issues.

A Chicago Tribune story last week pointed out another piece of the housing puzzle, with no immediate solution in sight. As with so many issues, the Baby Boomer generation is the tail that wags the dog when it comes to the housing market. Instead of moving into retirement communities like their parents did, many of the 75 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are aging in place, keeping about 1.6 million houses off the market, according to a Freddie Mac analysis.

McCook has a couple of new housing developments that should help resolve the issue locally, but the jury is still out on their effectiveness in moving the process along.

Because 76 percent of Baby Boomers own their own homes, according to a Chase study released in January, they are often reluctant to move.

Two-thirds of them think their home values will soon rise, and 88% of them even plan to remodel in the next three years. Thatís probably a good idea, according to the Tribune story, since the younger buyers they are counting on will be looking for functional, move-in ready housing.

Of course, the need for housing is a good problem to have, a sign that a community and region is drawing residents, whether drawn by employment or as an attractive place to retire.

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