PITTSBURG, Kan. —
City officials said last week they are trying to think outside the box when it comes to meeting local housing needs.
Tuesday night, the City Commission approved a request by Deena Hallacy, community development and housing specialist, to embark on a project that could create new housing for moderate-income residents and involve students at two Regents’ universities.
Hallacy sought to submit a proposal to the Kansas Housing Resource Corp. that seeks $400,000 with which to develop a vacant block at 18th and Locust streets with as many as 10 new homes.
The block has been on the market since the former Family Resource Center was razed in 2010. The city acquired the property with revolving loan funds, but has had no bites on it — perhaps because of the economy or because a sewer line runs through the middle of the block, which lessens the number of available lots, Hallacy speculated.
Earlier this year, the city wrestled with the idea of using the block for a community storm shelter using funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — an idea that it ultimately discarded.
Hallacy learned earlier this month that the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. has approximately $2.75 million to disburse through the Kansas Moderate Income Housing Program, a new initiative to help cities and counties develop housing and infrastructure in rural areas.
The KHRC is a public corporation that administers federal and state housing programs on behalf of the state of Kansas. Programs address single and multifamily housing development, homeowner rehabilitation, down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers, rental assistance and housing with supportive services.
According to the agency, numerous Kansas communities and employers have stressed a growing need for affordable moderate income housing — defined as housing for households between 60 and 150 percent of the Housing and Urban Development’s state non-metro area median income. For a two-person family, that would mean an annual income of between $22,195 and $55,488 in annual income. For a four-person family, it would mean $32,640 to $81,600.
The funding became available after the Kansas Legislature passed a measure providing $2 million to the agency with which to administer and support housing programs. KHRC plans to supplement the state funds with $750,000 in existing resources. The legislation requires that cities and counties are eligible only if they have populations of less than 60,000 people.
Hallacy said the opportunity to apply came at a welcome time for Pittsburg. The city was notified by the USDA Rural Development Office that as of Sept. 30, the community would no longer qualify for USDA rural housing assistance funds because the 2010 census put the population at slightly more than 20,000 people.
Last spring’s Imagine 2030, a local planning effort that surveyed businesses and individuals throughout Pittsburg in order to establish priorities for the future, noted that available housing was a serious issue in the city. City Manager Daron Hall said the city would be losing 30 dwellings in coming months after the city demolishes them.
Should Pittsburg be awarded the requested funds, it would use a portion of the funding to replace the sewer main, provide 10 connections to future homes, and build a north-south alleyway to divide the block. It also would make available to 10 pre-qualified homebuyers their closing costs, which would sweeten the deal for contractors, Hallacy said.
The city also approved providing $75,000 in forgivable loans to be given to 10 homebuyers to use as liens on the properties, provided they live in the homes for 10 years. Those funds would come from the city-administered Presbyterian Church Fund, also known as the Pittsburg Housing Fund.
With an estimated appraisal value of $62,000 per home, the possible cash infusion from construction loans would be $780,000, Hall said.
Should the city receive the funding, Public Works Director Bill Beasley anticipated the square footage of each home would be at least 900, and each would have rear garage access through the alley in order to create “good street frontage.”
Hall said a site plan and home plans would be created by students in the Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning & Design, which contacted the city in search of projects. The plans would be in keeping with the aesthetics of the neighborhood, composed primarily of quaint bungalows.
Hall said it’s likely that students from Pittsburg State University’s construction program would be involved in the building project.
“It’s a good pilot for us to really address housing, to take the onus off of the taxpayer and put taxes back on the rolls,” he said.
The deadline to submit proposals is Friday. The KHRC will notify applicants on the results of their applications by Oct. 12.