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Middle class faces lack of housing

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Posted at 1:39 PM, Apr 12, 2022

Joey and Katie Mims might be the middle-class model.  They are raising a son and they found a home in the city they love: Lincoln, Nebraska.

Jobs and homes are two areas that recently have presented Lincoln and other cities with an unusual issue.

Lincoln ranks at the top of a list measuring labor market tightness. In cities like Provo, Utah, and Lexington, Kentucky, the number of job openings is more than double the number of unemployed individuals. In Lincoln, it’s nearly four-to-one. 

“We’re a largely rural state, so as people go to college and move out of those communities, people aren’t coming back in. And so, we have a lot of people moving out of our state and they’re trying to figure out ways to bring people into our state,” Joey Mims said.

 For the past year, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has tried to find ways to essentially force people to work. 

Last fall, the state spent $10 million in federal CARES Act funds on a national ad campaign to convince folks to move there. 

Wayne Mortensen runs NeighborWorks Lincoln, a nonprofit that aims to empower homeowners.

“You can’t fill jobs and bring people to Nebraska with housing you don’t have,” Mortenson said.

Lincoln, like many mid-sized cities, doesn’t have enough affordable housing to support the middle-class employees they’d like to lure. 

“In our area, anything that goes up for sale is either purchased by an investment company and turned into a rental or is upgraded and flipped and sold for twice what a family just starting out can afford,” Katie said.

 Dr. Roger Tutterow, an economics professor at Kennesaw State in Georgia, said times are tough for a lot of people right now.

“If you're in a tight labor market and a tight housing market, it's a tough combination because you may look at a city where there's a great employment opportunity, but if you can't find the housing that's appropriate in terms of affordability or location or suitability, then that may discourage you from migrating," he said.

Joey and Katie had jobs. But in the Lincoln market, they couldn’t find a home until receiving assistance from NeighborWorks. 

“Our story isn’t unique, but it means so much to us that I want other people to have the same experience,”  Joey said.