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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Workers look for housing close to home

  • With a new job, many times comes a move and a new house.
    However, not all rural Kansas workers are able to find homes in their new cities of employment.
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  • With a new job, many times comes a move and a new house.
    However, not all rural Kansas workers are able to find homes in their new cities of employment.
    “I think that available or lack of available housing people are looking for can have an impact on if a person accepts a position,” said Linda Jolly, El Dorado Inc. executive director.
    She said it also affects businesses’ retention for long-term and reliable employees.
    The amount of housing a community has available can have a direct impact on economic development in a community.
    “It’s a common problem amongst all communities,” Jolly said. “Our challenge is we don’t have enough housing that people seek.”
    Jolly said many families today are seeking at least a three-bedroom, two-bath house.
    Another factor is the age of the homes available. Many homes in rural Kansas are older and don’t have a lot of the amenities people have grown accustomed to today, such as dishwashers.
    El Dorado conducted a survey a couple of years ago of people who made the decision to move to El Dorado and those who did not. The majority said they were looking for at least a three-bedroom, two-bath house.
    “Many times they were not able to find very many opportunities with homes that size,” she said.
    The average age of all homes in El Dorado is 1955, which means they don’t have a lot of amenities that people have grown accustomed to today such as dishwashers.
    Of the 4,500 housing units in El Dorado, 1,750 are rental properties and the majority are more than 50 years old.
    Even with these statistics, some employers are not having issues with employees finding a place to live.
    El Dorado USD 490 brings people to town each year when they hire new teachers, but they said they did not hear of any issues this year with anyone finding a place to live.
    BG Products, which recently expanded its operation in El Dorado, has not seen an impact on them either.
    “I’m aware of some challenges with growth in the city,” said Reggie Graham. “It hasn’t been a major issue to us as to yet. We have employees who live in over 30 communities
    throughout Central Kansas here."
    He said it is up to the employee where they choose to live.
    “We recruit based upon the positions we have and whether or not they want to work here,” Graham said. “Twenty percent of our employees live in and around the El Dorado area. That number will continue to grow as we continue to expand here.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Barton Solvents also opened an El Dorado branch last year, creating new positions in the community.
    “We haven’t had any issues,” said David Williams, branch manager. “We actually had El Dorado people who were commuting to Valley Center when we had that facility. Now that we are over here we’ve hired some additional people. Two-thirds of our staff are El Dorado people who were already here.”
    He said they only had two employees who moved here, and they did not have any problems finding a place to live.
    He said they do like for their employees to live close to their place of work.
    When employees can’t live in the town in which they work, They face challenges with their commutes because of weather. They also can’t easily address family emergencies if their children are attending school in another city.
    “That is something we hear from employers,” Jolly said. “Employers would prefer their employees live as close to the job site as possible.”
    To make sure there is suitable housing, communities are being proactive. Cities throughout Butler County have implemented Neighborhood Revitalization Programs. Some of them are target specific areas, and others are citywide.
    “That particular program addresses existing and new homes now,” Jolly said. “It’s an investment on the part of the city and citizens to give people the opportunity to either build new or improve existing and defer real estate taxes for either five or 10 years. That’s
    a real positive move.”
    It also covers in-fill of an existing property. An in-fill in a neighborhood often leads to additional homes in that area doing rehab or upgrading.
    Another option for communities is HOME grants, which El Dorado has offered. The grants assist with property rehab for homes owned by low- to moderate-income families. Grants can pay for projects, such as safety, electrical, window and door improvements.
    The latest opportunity is for grants from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for new moderate-income housing.
    “We think this is a great opportunity to see some new moderate incoming housing,” Jolly said.
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