When a homeowner’s property is included in a “blighted and substandard” area, the term can be misleading.

The Hastings Planning Commission recommended on Monday designating 154.6 acres in southwest Hastings as blighted and substandard. This doesn’t mean any specific home or property in that area is blighted and substandard, and it doesn’t change property values.

“There are a lot of really nice homes not only in this area but in other areas that have been given that blighted and substandard tag,” said Randy Chick, executive director of the Community Redevelopment Authority.

Instead of “blighted and substandard,” Chick likes to emphasize the term redevelopment area.

Those 154.6 acres, shaped like a squat J, are the 16th redevelopment area in Hastings.

Borders of the area include West B, D and E streets to the north, West F Street to the south, South Baltimore Avenue to the West and South Lexington Avenue to the east. Although South Baltimore Avenue is the western border on the north half of the area, the south half extends west and includes Brickyard Park.

Redevelopment Area 16 fits like a puzzle piece between existing redevelopment areas 9, 2, and 4.

According to Nebraska statute, up to 35% of a community may be designated blighted and substandard.

Chick said less than 30% of Hastings is blighted and substandard.

State statutes also specify redevelopment and development activities associated with the Nebraska Community Development Law should be used to promote the general welfare and enhance the tax base, as well as promote the economic and social well-being of a community.

Redevelopment areas have the potential for development by building streets and housing.

There are four factors that go into the substandard designation and 12 that go into the blighted area designation.

Among the factors for the terms are site dilapidation, age of buildings, poor street layout and unsafe conditions.

While individual homes within the blighted and substandard area might not meet those factors, the designation means there are a substantial amount of homes that do.

“Primarily that has to do with the age of our housing stock,” Chick said. “That’s been identified in our housing studies. We have a lot of older houses in our community.”

Hastings is lacking in quality, affordable housing, he said.

“This would allow the CRA to use the tools it has at its disposal to help redevelop existing property, or help a developer develop vacant land,” he said.

The CRA has used tax levy dollars to acquire and demolish condemned properties.

Several of the lots where Habitat for Humanity homes now stand came from the CRA.

The CRA also has a few different loan funds.

One of the most common economic development tools used to aid larger development projects in blighted and substandard areas is the use of Tax Increment Financing.

TIF is primarily designed to finance the public costs associated with a private development project. Property tax increases resulting from a new development are used to repay the public investment required by a project.

TIF projects may be commercial, residential, industrial or mixed use. Generally, TIF funds can be used for land acquisition, public improvements and amenities, infrastructure and utilities.

“This (blighted and substandard) designation allows us the opportunity to possibly help development, which hopefully takes away from that blight designation, or reduces the number of factors,” Chick said.

Chick said the last two Habitat houses have dwelling values of more than $100,000.

The property taxes generated from those homes are a lot more than the vacant lots or condemned properties that were there before.

“Our goal is to make something good happen that will add to our community’s tax base,” he said.

Establishing Redevelopment Area 16 came out of a meeting Chick had last year with First Ward Hastings City Council representatives Ginny Skutnik and Jeniffer Beahm. Chick asked what more the CRA could be doing to help grow or redevelop the First Ward.

Skutnik thanked Chick at the July 13 council meeting for his work helping establish Redevelopment Area 16.

“I think it’s going to be a very useful tool for our area to promote development, which the south side definitely needs,” she said.

In other business during the commissioners’ meeting Monday:

  • Voted 9-0 to recommend updating the planning commission’s rules and procedures. Among changes is moving the commission’s meetings from the third Monday of the month to the third Tuesday.
  • Unanimously recommended ratifying all actions taken at videoconference meetings held as authorized by the governor in response to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic.
  • Unanimously recommended approval of Ordinance 4637 to clarify and amend Hastings City Code regarding residential accessory structure requirements for all zone districts and related exterior design requirements for accessory structures in each district.
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