Auburn Pursues Grant To Create Housing Investment Group

AUBURN – Moments after rejecting an offer to take ownership of a long-distressed property in Auburn and lamenting over the high cost to demolish dilapidated homes, the city council heard about a possible solution.

Tammi and Dennis Payne offered to give the city a two-story apartment building on M Street, but the city council rejected the offer on four to one vote. Councilmen said it could be too expensive to remove asbestos hazards and demolish the duplex.

Mayor Scott Kudrna said the failed vote indicates the council’s desire to receive estimates on demolition costs before they agree to take the property.

The discussion included the strain on city resources, the growing number of run-down properties and pointed questions about how far elected officials will let properties fall into disrepair before they take action.

Earlier in the meeting, the city agreed to force a sheriff’s auction of property on 14th Street. Councilwoman Katy Billings reminded the council that the city paid $40,000 to clear the property.

The city had attempted to sell the lot, but the only bidder was Councilman Jeff Jeanneret. The council rejected his offer.

Billings said Auburn is in a conundrum about abandoned buildings, but a possible solution was later on the agenda.

Rather than pay to demolish homes, she said, a new housing program could provide enough incentive for builders to risk rehabilitating older homes.

Auburn is joining Geneva, Deschler, Fairbury and Beatrice in a grant application for $1 million through the Nebraska Investment Financial Authority.

Each of the five city’s will contribute up to $250,000 to the fund to create a $2 million fund, which will be used to loan home builders. The revolving loan fund will be used for new construction or rehab.

Tom Bliss of Southeast Nebraska Development District said there is $7 million in the competitive grant pool, but he feels a grouping of rural communities stands a good chance of receiving the matching grant.

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