One of the biggest challenges facing Nebraska City is finding a way to develop properties people can afford to purchase.
Nebraska City Street Commissioner Vic Johns  provided that summary at the conclusion of the second housing summit, which took place Tuesday night at the Morton-James Public Library.
This meeting brought together realtors, developers, landlords and representatives from some of the community’s larger employers to continue the discussion on the housing situation in Nebraska City.
The meeting began by looking at the housing situation from a realtor’s point of view.
Homebuyers in Nebraska City have an expectation of a 1,600-square foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with a 2-car garage, said Jeri Johns of Century 21 Bremer.
She added that having bedrooms on the main floor is “pretty much a must.”
Vic Johns added that he believed there were “ready and able buyers” in the market for a home priced between $175,000 and $240,000, but that there was a gap in available homes in the Nebraska City in those price ranges.
Jack Hobbie of Professional Mortgage Services said he believed an affordable price range for homes in Nebraska City would be between $150,000 and $160,000, but he wasn’t sure if houses could be built for that price.
He explained that about 20 years ago, some new houses were constructed in the Kearney Hill neighborhood, but residents opted to move into existing older homes because they offered more space than the new homes did.
Hobbie added that the market has shifted again with the recent interest in the “tiny house movement.”
Vic Johns provided the audience with some land and infrastructure costs.  
Lot costs would run between $55,000 per lot if the developer offered five lots per acre, or $85,000 per lot if he or she offered three lots per acre.
Paving, including curbs and drainage, would run between $80,000 and $125,000 per block, said Johns, and wastewater and water lines would cost about $60 per foot.
Developers who would build in-fill houses on existing lots in town face the challenge of Nebraska City’s lot sizes, which are about 48 feet by 128 feet.
This works out to 12 lots per city block, according to Nebraska City Building Inspector Alan Viox.
Viox added that developers can build on the existing lots as long as they meet the city’s setback requirements.
After realtors had a chance to weigh in on the housing situation, representatives of Nebraska City’s major employers discussed their perspective on housing.
Cargill has a goal of having 670 employees on its payroll, said Cliff Wiles, who added that the company currently employs about 650 people.
Fifty-two percent of Cargill employees do not live in Nebraska City, according to Wiles.
More than 100 employees commute daily from the Omaha area, said Wiles, and about 75 more drive to Nebraska City from Lincoln. Wiles believed additional apartments in Nebraska City would help meet the needs of Cargill workers.
Nebraska City landlords also had a chance to discuss the housing issue from their perspective.
Peggy Amerine said that renters want a similar size and style of home as homebuyers: a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with a 2-car garage and a large yard.
However, 3-bedroom units in Nebraska City are rare, both in apartments and in single-family homes.
Amerine discussed a program that was offered to landlords about 30 years ago to rehabilitate rental properties, which is in contrast to today’s situation, in which homeowners can qualify for rehab assistance, but landlords cannot.
However, according to Mary Stevenson, one a property is rehabbed, the assessor presents the landlord with a new, higher tax bill and a higher insurance bill.
Some renters opt for the affordability of renting an older home in Nebraska City, said Tracy Wieckhorst of the Nebraska City Housing Authority, and then the renter has to seek utility assistance because older homes tend to be less energy efficient.
When the next housing summit convenes, attendees will look at partnering with the Community Development Agency as a means of solving some of the housing issues.
“Interest rates are tremendous” right now, said Vic Johns, “and so are the opportunities.”