Expensive, taxpayer-subsidized single-family homes dominate Kansas

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HAYS – The first comprehensive overview of housing needs in Kansas in nearly three decades confirmed the obvious – the state needs more – and pointed out a particular lack of options for middle-class families.

Much of the state’s housing stock has been directed to where the money is – high-priced single-family homes or affordable taxpayer-subsidized housing.

Ryan Vincent, executive director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, said this leaves a large chunk of the population in the middle without many options for making Kansas their home.

“They are our teachers. They are our police officers. They are our nurses and the people our society depends on to function, ”said Vincent. “This strip of moderate income housing is absolutely essential for virtually every community, rural and urban.”

The state and Kansas Housing Resources Corp. report interviewed more than 4,000 Kansans earlier this year and analyzed US Census data to paint a picture of the state’s most pressing housing problems and potential solutions.

Vincent said the lack of middle-income housing in the state was a recurring theme for Kansans during the assessment listening sessions, which continued this month with stops in Hays and nine other towns. of State.

Especially with the price of building materials rising this year, the cost of building a small to medium-sized home in rural Kansas often exceeds the value of the finished home when appraised.

“We hear from communities from Salina to Iola to Norton that there are employers who want to come in and bring in high paying jobs,” he said. “But the housing, the houses are what hold us back.”

And the state’s housing shortage doesn’t just have economic development implications.

Vincent points out that housing stability is also a key factor in shaping health and education outcomes for Kansas families. He said it was felt statewide.

“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are all interdependent and interconnected,” he said. “We all benefit when we have enough healthy, affordable and accessible housing in our state and in every region. “

A survival issue for the Kansans middle class

During the evaluation listening session in Hays, consultant Amy Haase presents the findings and recommendations of the study.

So what will it take to meet this critical need across Kansas?

The report indicates several potential solutions.

Building more housing for the Kansans middle class can mean taxpayer subsidies that can make the math work for development in areas with low resale prices. This could include tax breaks for companies that invest in building homes in communities where workers live.

Repairing the state’s aging building stock. The report shows that most Kansas homes were built before 1960. In rural northwest and north-central Kansas, the majority of homes date from the 1940s. Many have become dilapidated or remain vacant. So the report not only suggests more money for new construction. He is also calling for more loans for the renovation of aging homes.

Diversify the detached single-family homes that dominate the state’s housing market, especially in rural areas. For example, building smaller single-family homes, or more duplexes and condominiums to accommodate people at different stages of their lives. The report suggests more flexible zoning and streamlined building permit processes.

The report says the state needs more people who can work in building houses. He suggests more funding for training in community colleges and high schools.

Another solution that could address the housing shortage in Kansas would be to increase funding for a program that has already been successful.

The state’s moderate-income housing subsidy program has helped some rural towns undertake new housing projects over the past nine years. For example, Dodge City used these public funds to fund a partnership with the local community college where students build moderately priced duplexes as part of their construction training.

But state funding for this program – currently $ 2 million per year – fails to keep up with demand, so many communities that apply for the grant are denied.

And the program is currently only available for places of less than 60,000 residents, so opening it up to large cities could stimulate the development of middle-income housing in places like Wichita and Topeka.

State Treasurer Lynn Rogers, who attended the Hays listening session, said the data in the report – illustrating the widespread housing problems in Kansas and the potential impact of real solutions – could finally help to create the political capital necessary to stimulate the momentum of the legislature.

“We have the statistics to help them understand that this is a statewide problem,” Rogers said. “It’s not a partisan issue. It is a question of survival and community growth.

The full report and its recommendations will be released in a few weeks.

David Condos covers western Kansas for High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas News Service.

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