Dozens of people voiced their opinions about housing in McPherson at a community workshop held at the McPherson Museum on Tuesday night.

The workshop was led by Marty Shukert of RDG Planning & Design, a firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, hired by the city of McPherson to conduct a housing needs analysis.

Mayor Tom Brown said the last time the city had done a professional housing study was in 1999.

At that time, Shukert noted, McPherson had experienced steady growth. Its population grew from 10,000 in 1960 to 13,770 in 2000, then decreased slightly to 13,155 by 2010.

"Employment in McPherson has continued to go up but the population has really sort of stabilized," Shukert said.

That downturn was likely due in part to the recession of 2008. Shukert and his team will consider a range of scenarios, but will focus on McPherson returning to its historic population growth rate. That would mean being able to house around 13,500 people by 2030.

"Things might get a lot better than that," Shukert said. "It depends on implementing policies or changes that attract more of the regional population to McPherson."

The study will include median housing costs compared to median income to determine the city's housing affordability ratio as compared to others in south central Kansas.

"McPherson's values related to income are not terribly high, but are sort of on the higher end of the range of comparable cities," Shukert said.

The age of McPherson residents will also factor into the housing needs analysis. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a higher-than-average population of children under 15 and young family households, but fewer middle-age residents than other cities its size.

To maintain a one percent rate of growth, Shukert said, McPherson should build around 65 single- and multi-family housing units per year. In 2012, 42 housing units were built; in 2018, 53 were constructed.

"It's too early to say if that's a trend, but 2018 was quite a productive year," Shukert said.

Shukert met with builders, developers, realtors, service providers, city agencies, financial groups and major employers in McPherson over the past few days. His team also conducted a housing condition inventory by driving down each street to collect data for the housing needs analysis.

"Nobody's individual's house will show up, but it's a way for us to identify and aggregate areas that need rehabilitation or that are showing signs of stress or distress," Shukert said.

After identifying how many houses — as well as what options for location, size and price — will be needed over the next decade, an opportunity map will be produced around mid-May. A complete housing strategy plan for McPherson will be finished around July 1.

"What this housing plan is going to include is a good deal of public engagement," Shukert said.

Those who live and/or work in or near McPherson are being asked to take a housing survey at http://www.housingmcp.com.

The people who came to the workshop on Tuesday were asked to share opinions about housing in McPherson.

Several positive factors were noted, such as the construction of new developments in different price ranges. Attendee said they appreciated the city obtaining Community Development Block Grants from the state and builders being encouraged to use local supplies.

Comments were also made about McPherson's low utility rates, its thriving downtown and recent enhancements to the opera house, water park, library, etc.

Some gaps in housing availability were identified, with housing for low-income and/or single individuals being the most frequently mentioned. Paralleling that thought was a comment about younger people not wanting — or being able to afford — large homes.

Others said senior citizens needed more housing options outside of assisted living facilities.

Several people said they would like to see McPherson College build more dorms as its student overflow take up smaller rental spaces that could otherwise be occupied by those who want to live and work in McPherson year-round.

Some changes those present wanted to see happen included the consistent interpretation and enforcement of housing codes. Giving tenants an anonymous way to report poor living conditions in an effort to prevent a landlord retaliating by raising rents was also brought up — as was finding ways for landlords to be compensated when tenants destroy their properties.

Education was also a major theme, with a proposal for a class that would lay out expectations for renters and landlords. Upon completion of the class, the renter's initiative would be rewarded with a discount on their rent and give landlords some way to gauge their commitment to a rental.

Financial mentorships between people who have experience buying and selling homes and those who are starting out — with the possible partnership of area banks — were also discusses.

Giving buyers and builders more incentives and education about what programs, incentives and code standards are currently in place was another issue mentioned.

Bringing in more activities to both bring tourism dollars in and encourage residents to stay here was another point for which some present advocated.

Attracting developers and housing is not the sole responsibility of the city, several agreed. However, there is a need to improve the perception that it is too expensive to live in McPherson

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.