The initial reports from the Great Bend Economic Development Inc. housing study arrived at noon Monday, GBED President Sara Hayden said. Although more work remains to be done before the final product, it is clear the community has a housing shortage.
“This was their first draft,” she said. After discussions during the Zoom meeting this week, RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, Neb., which is doing the study,“is going to dig a little deeper.”
But, there were a couple of highlights from the first draft she wanted to share.
“Building activity over the last six years has not been enough to support growth,” especially in the past four years, Hayden said. “Two new units have been built in our community since 2018.”
Conservatively, there would need to be 22 houses per year built to enable Great Bend to support moderate new growth. A recent study with GG&A as well as the housing study focus group with eight major employers indicated there are over 700 job openings currently in the community.
“So if Great Bend captured just a third of these jobs as new households, we would need to create over 200 housing units immediately,” Hayden said. “So this number is what what’s needed to address the pent up demand in the community beyond what is needed to support the overall growth.”
It was expressed that as the city builds its housing program, it should focus efforts on enabling new construction, rehabilitation programs for our aged housing stock, and utilizing existing downtown second floor square footage to create immediate housing usage, she said.
“Those are just a couple things,” she said. “There is so much that came through this and once we have that final report” which will likely be available by the end of the month.
The study cost $10,000, but a grant from Wheatland Electric covered half of that. The council approved paying the balance in February.
RDG Planning and Design was in Great Bend in late February for two days. The firm requested that Hayden put together six different focus groups – public sector, major employers, financial organizations, community organizations, builders and developers, and realtors and property managers. There were no more than 10 people per group, and they met over those two days.
The consultants took all that data and compiled it, Hayden said.
The next step will be to put together a housing task force where the city can take the information and put together a plan to address the needs.
Approximately 79% of Great Bend’s homes were built before 1980. The city’s last housing study was done in 2013, also by RDG, and it is recommended that a housing study be performed every three to five years to keep current on a community’s housing needs.