The city of Hastings wants the public’s help to identify key housing needs for the future.

Keith Marvin, principal community planner with Marvin Planning Consultants of David City, and Aaron Sorrell with Community Planning Insights of Dayton, Ohio, currently are conducting a housing study in Hastings for that reason.

The project is funded by a grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, the city of Hastings, the Hastings Community Redevelopment Authority, Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and Hastings Economic Development Corp.

Marvin and Sorrell are meeting with focus groups representing specific groups such as real estate agents, developers, bankers and nonprofit organizations from Tuesday morning through Thursday afternoon.

“We want to make sure we address the needs of the entire community and not just focus in on one specific cohort,” Sorrell said.

They will take the feedback received during those meetings to develop recommendations for a final report.

“We want to make sure we talk to the affordable housing advocates and those grounds that represent low- to moderate-income individuals,” Sorrell said. “This housing study is trying to take a wide swath of the community.”

The planners will play host to a public kick-off meeting 4:45-6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at The Lark, 809 W. Second St., where Marvin and Sorrell will introduce themselves, provide a quick PowerPoint explaining the housing study and be be there to answer questions.

“It’s not going to be a real formal situation,” Marvin said. “I like to keep it low-key.”

Also included in the final report will be data analyzed from a public survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/Hastings2020.

A quick QR code link will be available on posters, post cards and the city’s website. The city and team are interested in knowing the public’s thoughts and desires during the process.

The survey questionnaire, which has around 30 questions and takes about five minutes to complete, asks the participant about housing needs in Hastings.

The questionnaire includes a page each of questions specifically directed to individuals looking to own, looking to rent or looking to upgrade homes.

Hard copies of the questionnaire are available in the development services office of the Hastings City Building at 220 N. Hastings Ave., Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce at 301 S. Burlington Ave., Hastings Museum at 1330 N. Burlington Ave., Hastings Public Library at 314 N. Denver Ave. and Adams County Courthouse at 500 W. Fourth St.

“The survey will get at a lot of the needs questions,” Sorrell said. “With the focus groups we’re really trying to drill down on those people who are doing the work.”

Hastings is the third Nebraska community where Marvin and Sorrell have conducted a housing study.

Marvin and Sorrell spoke during their focus groups Tuesday about their experience with the study conducted in 2018 in North Platte.

“We were amazed at how fast we found out how many people were actually living in RVs or out of their car,” Marvin said. “Those groups can be important to identify if we have that kind of situation happening in the community that’s maybe not seen very well.”

Marvin said the survey, which opened last week and had 26 responses as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, will be available for about a month.

He and Sorrell then will work on data analysis and community mapping to complete a final report to be presented in about six months.

For the North Platte study, the final report included a public presentation at North Platte Community College’s South Campus with recommendations that went through the data in detail.

Information and recommendations included the biggest housing demands of that community and how to fill that demand.

“What public policy issues can we address to affect that? Sorrell said. “It’s not just a numbers game.”

He presented a national financing program as a recommendation that North Platte officials were not familiar with.

There was also a recommendation for the city and county to step up code enforcement.

Another recommendation was to enact a food and beverage occupation sales tax with the idea that money could help build affordable housing.

“Some people liked what they heard, and some people didn’t like what they heard.” Sorrell said. “It’s an unvarnished approach.”

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