NEBRASKA CITY –Even a wind chill dipping below 12 degrees at the Kreifels Hills Subdivision groundbreaking Tuesday did not sway Mayor Bryan Bequette’s levity about when the need for housing got its start in Nebraska City.

Bequette: “It’s taken awhile to get to this point. Nebraska City has had a housing need for a little period, just a little over 100 years, plus or minus a couple of years, but we finally got here.”

Nebraska City’s population reached its peak in 1890 and a recent housing study shows that half of the current housing stock is rated at low to poor condition and 60 of the 1,036 houses are experiencing overcrowding. Mayor Bequette said employers were pleading for places for workers to live and housing was a top priority at every town hall meeting.

Bequette: “I came into office thinking where there’s a demand the private sector will meet it. So we sat and we waited. We knew we needed housing. We waited and we waited and it didn’t come.”

When Nebraska City received nearly $1 million in ARPA funds, Dan Mauk of Nebraska City Area EDC saw opportunity to relieve pent-up housing demand.  Experts said Nebraska City would need 80 new housing units by 2026, but the city had a decades-long history of building only a few per year.

 Bequette: “Then we started asking developers to come and see how eager the city was to get moving. We brought a few in town and still nothing – crickets. “

The city will use a utility transfer fee to raise the $2 million needed to install streets, storm sewers and other infrastructure at the housing development, which Mauk says will increase property taxes, bring in new families and fuel economic growth.

Amy Allgood of Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce said the groundbreaking on Halloween invokes vision of a lively future for Nebraska City.

Allgood: “This is going to be lined with houses and trees and little kids running door to door trick-or-treating and Nebraska City will be growing with more families enjoying Nebraska City. It’s just so exciting to me.”

City Construction and Facilities Manager Marty Stovall said  he hopes the city’s role in laying the groundwork for housing development will help other communities in Nebraska get the housing they need.