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Officials with the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) and other area housing and economic development groups held a lunch meeting Thursday to discuss programs and opportunities in the Gage County area.

The two-hour event held at Aunt Mary’s Center featured multiple presentations by NIFA officials.

NIFA provides financial resources for agricultural, residential, manufacturing, medical and community development endeavors.

The group also aims to provide technical assistance for activities related to these areas.

Robin Ambroz, NIFA deputy director of programs, spoke to those in attendance regarding assistance NIFA can offer. One area discussed was for first-time home buyers.

“We through that program are able to provide up to 5 percent of the purchase price,” she said. “It’s a second mortgage and the interest rate is set at 1 percent for a term of 10 years. This is really helpful to those first-time home buyers who haven’t been able to save a down payment and maybe need a little bit of help with that.”

Beatrice has four NIFA-approved lenders, First National bank, Great Western Bank, HomeServices Lending and Pinnacle Bank.

The discussion came as a comprehensive housing study is being conducted by the NGage economic development group with Hanna:Keelan Associates, a Nebraska-based community planning and research consulting firm, and a countywide housing steering committee comprised of local community and county officials and housing stakeholders.

Glennis McClure, executive director of NGage, said NIFA provided 50 percent of the funding for the study, which she added was overdue for the area.

“As we work with businesses and try to find out what some of their needs are, from time to time the housing issue would come up,” she said. “Our board said it’s been a while since there’s been a housing study done here in this community. We think that’s pretty important so we put the gears in motion and got that started.”

Tim Keelan of Hanna:Keelan Associates was asked during the lunch what percentage communities like Beatrice usually have of rental versus purchased residential properties, as well as a breakdown by income.

“The housing demand that we put together working with the steering committee will identify housing for all income sectors, from the very low income all the way to the wealthy,” he explained. “Then also the different price points associated with each one of those groups. That will all be put together soon, over the next three months or so. With regards to percentage, typically there’s a growth in rental housing in communities.

“Every community in Nebraska with the exception of Lincoln and Omaha ... most communities in Nebraska like Beatrice or even smaller communities are around about 35 percent for rental and 65 percent owner.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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