Cities, counties get new chance at state housing grant
By RUTH CAMPBELL
Cities and counties have a chance to apply again this year for a grant that can help bring housing to areas sorely in need of residences.
Administered by the Kansas Housing Resources Corp., the Kansas Moderate Income Housing Program is an initiative to help cities and counties develop moderate income housing and infrastructure in rural areas. Now in its second year, it is funded by a $2 million state allocation. Awards are capped at $400,000, and only cities and counties can apply.
J.R. Behan, KHRC director of operations and former city commissioner and mayor of Garden City, said during a webinar on Tuesday that KHRC wants communities with less than 60,000 population to put in their applications, which are due Sept. 6, with awards set to be made on or about Oct. 11.
Last year, Garden City received a $300,000 grant that helped bring about Pioneer Road Estates, an 11-acre complex featuring 13 duplexes and 17 single-family homes. The duplexes will sit on 4.4 acres on the south side of the site and the homes on 6.6 acres on the south side. The developer is G.C. Residential Builders.
Kaleb Kentner, planning and community development director for Garden City, who also handles planning, zoning and code enforcement for Finney County and the city of Holcomb, said there have been discussions with both entities about going for the grant this year.
"We're definitely looking for projects with developers who are interested in partnering to get that grant in either of those jurisdictions," Kentner said.
The KHRC explained to the city of Garden City that the "odds are pretty slim if Garden City were to apply for another one. We probably won't apply for one for the city, but those that are located in the county or Holcomb, we're definitely entertaining that. ... It is a fantastic program, and we hope that it continues to be funded. ... We have a such a high demand and need for housing everywhere in Finney County, whether it's in Holcomb or Garden City, this is a great tool that can help get some of those housing needs filled," Kentner said.
Behan said his agency anticipates applications being "very competitive this year," with entities that didn't get funding and those who were unable to compile an application last year entering the mix.
"Last year, we had 72 people at all of the meetings. This year, we had 148. That's double the amount. We've doubled the amount of attendance at the public meetings just in the past year. I think that's good. More people have found out about it," Behan said.
Behan said he hopes the program will be in a position in the future to ask for more funding, but for now, especially with the state's tight budget, "We're happy that we were still included," he said.
City Planner Sam Henderson said G.C. Residential Builders wants to complete Pioneer Road Estates by the end of the year.
"That's the goal they're ultimately trying to reach," Henderson said.
The developer also is participating in the Rural Housing Incentive District program, so if the project is finished by the end of the year, developers can maximize their property tax increment, Henderson said. The increment — which the developers would get as a rebate — is the difference between what the developer would pay in taxes post construction minus preconstruction taxes, Henderson said.
As part of that program, the city had to approve a development agreement, which included a list of eligible expenses the rebate can be used to reimburse, Henderson said. These can include paving, grading, site preparation and design costs, he said.
"It's been a good tool for us to stimulate housing. (The Reserves at) Prairie Ridge used that. They were the first development to use that RHID program," Henderson said.
Fred Bentley, director of rental development, said during the webinar that the applications aren't based on a point system, but leverage — where the community contributes substantially to the project along with KHRC, is also a factor. "We want to hear where housing is a real problem. Tell us some of the anecdotal stories about what is happening," Bentley said.
He added that people have told him about people who move to a town for a job and have to live in another city, or perhaps in basements or assisted living facilities in one instance.
"We want to hear where housing is a real problem," Bentley said. "... Tell us as much as you can, concisely, about what's going on in your community. You could include opportunities of what you've missed out on," he said.
For entities that haven't received funding, Bentley advises them to be persistent.
"You really have to keep working at this. Even if you're not successful, it does get you on our radar screen and allows us to be more aware of what's happening in your community," Bentley said. "We're trying to increase awareness in policy making areas, the Legislature and elsewhere, to try to get more funding for this program."