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In-depth study looks for solutions to decades-long housing crisis in Kansas

It’s been nearly 30 years since a statewide housing needs assessment was completed in Kansas.
Updated: Jun. 12, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansas housing leaders are working on a blueprint of ideas to address the state’s decades-long housing issues. To do that, they’re asking for public input from Kansas homeowners and renters.

“What COVID has done has made a problem a crisis in our state,” said Kansas Housing Resources Corporation Executive Director Ryan Vincent.

Problems with housing in the state is a topic Ryan Vincent hears a lot about.

“Up until now, we’ve had a lot of anecdotal data,” said Vincent. “We know that our state has a housing problem. We know that from our daily interactions with communities, with employers, with citizens, whether it’s tenants, landlords or homeowners. We know that we have so many systemic housing challenges in our state.”

That is especially seen in the stock of quality affordable housing.

Vincent said it has been a long time since housing has been fully studied in Kansas. Now, they’re completing the undertaking this year with a statewide housing needs assessment.

“This is a year-long process. We know it’s an important undertaking that hasn’t happened in 30 years. We want to do it well. We want to make sure that we’re getting good public input every step of the way,” said Vincent.

The assessment is nearing the halfway point. They are currently collecting information through a public online survey.

Vincent said, “So far, we’ve got over 2,000 people that have taken the online survey, which is wonderful, but we know we’ve got a lot more voices, a lot more stories in our state to tell.”

That survey will remain open through the end of June. It’s along with a lot of community outreach.

“We’ve spent the last two months conducting something like well over 100 different community stakeholder meetings. We’ve had regional meetings from rural and urban areas,” Vincent said.

A housing needs assessment provides a snapshot of the extent of the needs for housing and lays out a path forward to address long-term needs.

Vincent said it would provide updated information to work off of and get a clearer picture of what’s changed since the last assessment.

“Absolutely critical for both my office, as the state’s housing agency as well as for our state, for our policymakers, for our communities to have accurate data,” Vincent said.

To complete the assessment, Kansas Housing is working with the Office of Rural Prosperity. Vincent said while the final report will encompass the entire state, there are unique issues to rural areas of Kansas.

“We have a large number of rural communities across our state, and rural communities have historically been underserved.” Vincent said, “Some of that is just the challenges of developing, rehabbing and keeping aging housing stock in rural communities to the point where it needs to be so it truly in a healthy state.”

He added, “We know that rural communities can grow. We know that there’s employers and citizens wanting to move into rural communities but until we can identify what rural communities’, needs are only then can we truly start to meet those needs through existing and new programs.”

Vincent said the next step after the close of the survey is to work with their consultant, who will evaluate census data.

There will also series of community presentations and workshop sessions later in the year to go over the draft before releasing the final report at the end of the year.

He added, “Identifies what those needs are, that gives qualitative and quantitative data, that we can then use at our office to better allocate existing resources.”

The federal government largely funds the resources. These include the recent pandemic-related rental assistance program and homeless services and other services for homeowners and renters.

“Really across the continuum of care tenant-based rental assistance to funding multifamily developments throughout the state again urban and rural areas alike,” he said.

Vincent said the final report would include action items for the state to look at and be broken down into regions of the state. Communities can then use the information in their own planning.

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