A new generation of local young business leaders are working on a plan to help address the need for affordable housing in the region with a project in southeast Gering that would include a planned development with homes constructed with shipping containers.
Looking at the growth of employment opportunities in the trades in Scotts Bluff County, and a lack of available housing for that workforce, brothers Jake, Austin and Kolby Aulick have developed a unique proposal with a project that would be built to the south and just east of the Pathfinder Addition, including commercial properties just north of Highway 71 between 7th Street and Rundell Road.
Jake Aulick says the plan sprang up from discussions with Twin Cities Development on ideas to meet affordable housing needs in the area, which impact Aulick’s, many other large machinery and agriculture businesses in the Gering and Scottsbluff area, as well as industries such as health care.
“This isn’t supposed to be an Aulick project, this is supposed to be a community project; just like our vocational trades, we have a lot of good partners,” said Aulick. “Though that partnership we figured out really quick if you get everybody on the same page, in agreement to the idea or project that you bring to the table, you’ll have a lot of support. So, we’re planning to give up our would-be margins on what we’re doing, to make sure we do everything as local as possible so that everyone grows together.”
Aulick says even with the renewed interest in skilled trades among teens at area schools through career academies, many current and potential workers find themselves priced out of the housing market, which makes it much more difficult to organically grow the local workforce.
The project, anticipated to take at least five years, would also include lots for more traditional single-family homes. As a planned development, the container home portion would be a secure, gated community with fencing and proposed spaces for a police substation and child care. The brothers believe the low-maintenance homes would appeal to single workers and families in their 20’s.
The various pieces of the plan started to come together since fall of 2022, when the trio approached the Gering Council for a municipal code amendment that would allow the construction of homes using shipping containers. The construction method was approved, as long as such homes were part of a planned development, in September.
At the end of November, the purchase of the land closed, and in January this year, the city approved a blighted and substandard designation for a part of south Gering that included the project properties, a step needed for TIF financing eligibility.
The final piece included the city’s annexation of a 200 foot strip of the property north of the Highway, which would allow extension of utilities into that area. Basic site prep of that area is set for later this spring, and several of those lots have already been spoken for.