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KS housing survey: despite population growth JoCo, WyCo not meeting community needs

·3 min read
Rich Sugg

The Kansas City Metro area is the fastest growing region in Kansas but, like the rest of the state, it struggles to fill the housing needs of its community.

Preliminary results of a statewide survey, the first of its kind in 30 years, found that 30% of homes in Kansas were built before 1960 and that the state lacks diverse housing options for middle income buyers and renters.

Full results of the housing needs assessment, conducted over the past year by the Office of Rural Prosperity and Kansas Housing Resource Corporation, will be released in December or January. Before that, researchers are touring the state holding public presentations on regional findings.

Statewide, researchers found depressed home values in rural areas that remove financial incentives for new construction; an aging housing stock; an inadequate supply of homes for middle income and senior Kansans; a lack of skilled laborers, and a shrinking inventory of affordable housing.

Many of these problems were identified in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties but to a lesser degree, said Charlie Cowell, an urban planner with RDG Planning and Design, a Nebraska contractor that worked on the survey.

Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, Cowell said, suffer from a lack of jobs in proximity to housing.

“Especially for lower income households being on transit lines or being near where they work can really help with the overall cost they’re paying for transportation which then can add more they can afford for housing,” Cowell said.

While both counties have a high number of older homes, Cowell said, those in Wyandatte County were more likely to be in severe need of repair.

In both counties, development projects that earned tax credits for offering affordable units were shifting to market price at a quicker rate than new affordable housing was coming in. In Johnson County, that issue was compounded by residents resisting placement of affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

“In Johnson County just dealing with, I’ll be blunt, the approval process was a common thing we heard,” said Amy Haase, a principal at RDG. “Projects that meet the comprehensive plan and get lots of public push backs when it comes time to implement those.”

“In Wyandotte County your profit margins are smaller, it’s not as appealing to go in and do those projects.”

With the release of the full survey, the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation plans to push for several state and local initiatives to increase and diversify housing availability statewide.

Haase said solutions will come down to more than just affordable housing. Existing older homes need to be rehabilitated and supply needs to be expanded across all price ranges.

“The one thing that studies have found is when we build what they refer to as market rate units that allows people to potentially move up,” Haase said. “If we free up 25% because they had an option to move to something that fit their lifestyle a little bit better it’s really great and that’s really important to do.”

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