Representatives of the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation met with city representatives Monday morning to explain options for funding new housing in McPherson.
McPherson was represented by city commissioners and representatives from USD 418, Hospira, the McPherson Chamber of Commerce, Go McPherson, the McPherson Housing Coalition and Multi-Community Diversified Services.
Also in attendance were developers Ross Vogel of Vogel Properties and Kelly Harbe of Prairie Fire Development Group.
The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation was represented by Executive Director Dennis L. Mesa, Director of Rental Development Fred Bentley and Director of Operations James R. Behan.
Kansas Housing Resources Corporation is a self-supporting public corporation that serves as the primary administrator of federal housing programs for the state of Kansas. Based in Topeka, the organization sustains itself through federal contracts for service and program administration fees.
Bentley said many communities have the problem of being able to provide for lower-income residents while having difficulty providing housing for higher income residents.
“A good thing,” Bentley said, “is that you have one of the highest incomes in the state.”
One the options discussed to assist mid-level income buyers was down payment assistance, in which funds are allocated to a community to aid prospective buyers make down payments on houses.
“We’ve come from a climate where just about anyone could buy a house to the pendulum swinging to the opposite side. Now almost no one can buy a house,” Behan said. “Even with down payment assistance, it can be very difficult.”
Mesa said rental housing could prove to be the most reasonable option available, depending on data from area housing studies.
“A lot of people can’t buy,” Mesa said. “They’re just out of college or just starting their careers, but they can rent. Until people get that element of certainty in their lives, it’s like this.”
Another topic of discussion was the use of tax-credit incentives to attract development in the area in accordance with the Rural Housing Incentive District program.
Tax-credit incentives allow the development investors to take a federal tax credit equal to the cost of development of a property.
While the national economy has been improving and McPherson’s industries have seen increases in hiring, the city has faced the conundrum of not having available housing so these employees can become McPherson residents.
A study by Go McPherson recently revealed 58 percent of McPherson’s workforce is commuting to their jobs. Fifty percent said the wait for vacancies was too long to live in the city and almost 19 percent said housing costs and the condition of units were also factors.
Mayor Tom Brown said the meeting was very informative.
Page 2 of 2 - “You have to start somewhere. We have pursued the Rural Housing Incentive District program, and we can look at creating a down payment program, but they can be more difficult than they seem.”
Brown said, with three projects in the works, the city’s been going small with multifamily projects, and are still looking for local contractors.
Developer Kelly Harbe said he thought the meeting had gone very well.
“Everything starts with demand,” Harbe said. “I’ve never seen a demand curve like this.”
Chris Goodson, director of the McPherson Housing Coalition, said the meeting had supplied great ideas of where funding could come from.
“Hopefully we can get the housing situation moving forward,” Goodson said.
City Administrator Nick Gregory said it was important to remember that McPherson’s supply of multi-family housing units was small despite a need for them.
“There’s a lot of industry in town,” Gregory said, “so we could find out what people’s needs are. A lot of the needs that turned up in a 1999 housing study are still here today. We have to tell developers the story of McPherson to make this happen.”
Mesa said McPherson had many pluses in its favor that the city and its residents should cherish.
“Its willingness to partner with so many entities in the community should be cherished,” Mesa said. “They’re willing to open up to different organizations. We’ll take this information back to our shop and share it with the administration.”
After the meeting Mayor Brown and city officials took the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation representatives on a tour of McPherson’s industrial and housing areas.
The city will be host a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday at the McPherson Municipal Center, 400 E. Kansas Ave., during which it is seeking public input and ideas as to McPherson’s housing needs for the future.