City presented with housing study conducted by UNL

YORK – City officials have been presented with a 129-page housing study conducted by professional educators and students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with the results being presented to the city council this past week by Dr. Abigail Cochran and Matt Bolander.

The very detailed report includes information about trends in local housing and housing needs for the future. It says “both the county and the city have witnessed an increase in the number of owner-occupied housing units, while the City of York has maintained a stable median value from the 2017 estimate, suggesting stability in the housing market inside the city limits. The percentage of renter-occupied units has somewhat decreased, which could be an indication of a shift in the rental market’s characteristics or a trend toward owning.”

It also says the median rent in York County “dropped slightly to $804 from $809, while it stayed steady at $809 in the city, which may indicate a competitive rental market or sufficient supply to meet demand. Rent stability in the face of rising property values could potentially be a sign of successful rental regulations or renter-friendly market conditions.”

It also notes how more households in York are occupied, today, by older folks. “In York, 26% of the total households include one or more people under 18 years, and 31% of the households include one or more people who are 65 years old or over. It can be observed how a higher ratio of households has the elderly population residing. According to American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates from 2017-2021, the homeownership rate for York is higher when compared to the state of Nebraska. The homeownership for York is 69% and for Nebraska it is 66.8%.”

It was noted there is a housing shortage across the nation, as well as here, with those conducting the study saying there is an awareness in York “of a shortage of suitable residential housing on the part of residents, developers and policymakers. That understanding seems to be accompanied by a shared openness to relax land-use regulations and incentivize housing development.”

The report says “by 2040, if trends hold, there will still be a deficit of 168 housing units within York. When comparing York to peer cities, or York County to Hamilton, Otoe and Seward Counties, some interesting contrasts appear. Trends in single-family-unit building permits are similar between York and Aurora. Both have seen their single-family-unit building permits decline from the early 2010s. However, Nebraska City and Seward have seen their single-family building permits slowly increase. Interestingly, among all four peer cities, York has featured the highest number of vacant housing units.”

Considering a housing survey conducted here, “more than 40% of respondents rated apartments, senior housing, family housing and townhomes as being in fair or poor condition. Most housing in York are single-family homes and just over a quarter of all single-family homes are deemed good by respondents. York residents would like to see the city maintain the current housing stock. They also want to see more housing options become available. Over half of respondents said single-family homes, senior housing and family housing were somewhat important, very important or essential. As well as cost, access for the disabled was a relatively high priority. It appears that families are growing in York, with at least 21% of respondents staring housing options for families raising children is very important.”

Further, “the cost of housing is cited by survey respondents as the largest barrier in the community toward increasing homeownership city-wide.”

The study reflects on the tie between workforce development and the existence of housing options. “As the city of York has grown, so has the need for housing, most notably housing which is affordable for households with average incomes. Currently, there is inadequate housing stock to meet the demand in York, which, combined with a scarcity of childcare openings, creates struggles for prospective residents attempting to make the move to York. These difficulties have been felt by the business community as well. Open positions have not been filled, offers have been declined or have been accepted with new employees opting to commute from Lincoln or other surrounding communities. Having a large percentage of the workforce commuting to York is less than ideal and does not contribute to the quality of life in the city to the same extent as having those workers living in the community.”

The study provides numerous conclusions, following statistical analysis, census trend reviews, interviews with local leaders and housing specialists:

  • Since there is especially high demand for new construction of housing which is affordable for people with average incomes and for repairs and renovations to existing house and these needs are not being met, there may be an opportunity for students training in trades to receive hands-on experience while helping to create new housing options in York. Students can complete projects which result in hew housing or that make older houses more livable and attractive. Such an arrangement would be beneficial for both the students and the future residents of the new or improved houses.
  • Addressing the housing gap, for all income levels, is critical for maintaining the economic and cultural vitality of York. Along with increasing and improving housing stock, efforts must be continued to increase childcare options. Many initiatives have been started and progress has been made in both areas. However, it is important to maintain momentum and strive for innovation, in terms of economic development, social services, demographic and social factors. The city’s distinctive combination of population growth, economic stability and cultural attractions has fostered a consistent demand for housing. With thriving businesses and an expanding job market, the influx of residents has heightened the necessity for a variety of housing options. Nevertheless, the difficulties in fulfilling this demand are apparent in the intricate equilibrium between supply and demand. Despite attempts to alleviate the housing shortage through new projects and initiatives, the speed of construction and regulatory limitations have, at times, faced challenges in keeping pace with the increasing demand. This has led to increased competition for available housing units, resulting in upward pressure on prices and potential affordability concerns for those with lower incomes. As the community grapples with these challenges, it comes crucial for city administration, local authorities, developers and stakeholders to collaborate in fostering sustainable solutions for meeting this housing demand.
  • By fostering a resilient and responsive housing market, York can continue to thrive as a vibrant community where residents have access to quality housing, economic opportunities and an enhanced quality of life. Housing shortages are an issue in York. Within York, there are soon-to-be elderly people in need of right-sized age-appropriate housing. Among those raising children and families, there is a need to upsize, but there are no affordable housing options to reasonably accommodate and fill this need for most residents. Concerning young adults, there simply are not apartments which qualify as affordable, yet alone feasibility towards potential homeownership. Homeowners lack sufficient funds or resources to maintain their current properties, and the cost of repairs and upkeep is simply too expensive for some to keep up with. Based on feedback from respondents, many residents are open to relaxing restrictive zoning regulations to spur homebuilding and counteract demographic and financial pressures in the community.
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  • York is in critical need of a housing policy which is proactive in nature. In addition to addressing present inequities, this strategy should proactively anticipate and prepare for forthcoming demands. Adopting such a strategic approach is critical in order to sustain York’s appeal as a desirable location for a talented and diversified labor force, thereby facilitating its ongoing expansion and progress.
  • The escalating housing shortages within the country are now acknowledged as a pressing concern and a potential threat to the overall housing situation. The existing housing tock falls short of meeting the demands of the contemporary era, exacerbated by the upward trajectory of interest rates, emphasizing the increasing importance of diversifying housing options. To address these challenges comprehensively, there is a proposal to introduce an R4 zoning district into the existing zoning codes. Additionally, there is a strategic plan to implement an overlay or planned unit development specifically tailored for downtown York, with the possibility of extending its coverage to the industrial zone adjacent to downtown, contingent on compatibility assessments. Moreover, a proactive step is being considered to amend York’s parking codes by replacing the term “required” with “recommended” and contemplating the elimination of parking requirements within the downtown district. These initiatives collectively aim to address the housing shortage, promote urban development and adapt to evolving community needs in a sustainable and flexible manner.

During this past week’s city council meeting, York City Administrator Sue Crawford said “it’s great we have this study to see where we are at this time.”

The study includes extensive statistical findings which will prove to be instrumental to moving forward with housing expansion in York.

 

 

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