Wichita public housing to get up to $60 million renovation

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Up to $60 million is coming to public housing in Wichita and that means complete renovations for all public housing properties.

"That's good news!" one resident of Greenway Manor says to John E. Hall, the Wichita Housing and Community Services Department Director.

"Yes, yes, yes!" he replies.

Greenway Manor is just one of two high rise buildings that coupled with two other garden style buildings make up the city's public housing for multi-family units. The authority also has 352 single family homes across the city. Every one will see a top to bottom renovation.

"This is the first time we've been able to do this," Hall said.

In 2012, the US Congress created the ability for public housing authorities across the country to begin utilizing private funding in addition to government funding. From there, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed a program called the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

Back in February, the Wichita City Council approved the Wichita Housing and Community Services Department's submission of four applications to be part of the RAD program.

Saturday, Hall said, he's announcing the applications have been accepted.

"This is one of our high rise buildings and it's for the elderly," Hall said as he stands in Greenway Manor. "So what the residents here will be able to see is a completely renovated building. So the elevators system, for example, will be completely brand spanking new. The flooring, the walls, we're going to basically take everything down and rebuild it more or less. We'll leave the structure itself here but we'll do a complete restoration of the building."

Hall said the entire project should take between 18 months to two years. He said the Wichita Housing Authority is still in very early stages of planning and has to take many steps before the renovations can happen. But he's moving quickly.

As for tenants, they'll go elsewhere during the renovations. But Hall said that'll all be taken care of.

"What will happen is we will work with them directly. It is our responsibility and liability to ensure that we temporarily relocate tenants," he said. "The Wichita Housing Authority will be coordinating temporary sites off of this building around the city for probably up to 90 to 120 days and we pay everything. The utility cost, the moving, everything and they will not have to come out of their pockets for any additional expenses for this renovation."

Hall said the next steps in the process are to communicate with tenants, which has been going on for a while. He said his office will do physical condition assessments of all of the buildings to determine what the actual cost of the renovations will be. From there, he'll request proposals and reach out to lenders.

As for getting the money, Hall said there are several things that come into play. It starts with a 20 year outlook on what funding his office will receive. In the past, he's only been able to see the funding one year at a time.

Now, he can solicit government and private lenders to make this project happen.

Hall said he'll start with the US Treasury Department.

"For example we are planning to contact the US Treasury Department who issues tax credits, 4% tax exempt bonds. Those are administered by Kansas Housing Resources Corporation and we're going to ask them for a lot of money, about 40 million dollars to do the substantial rehabilitation here," Hall said.

If Wichita needs more, Hall said he'll reach out to local and state banks for loans. He said the lenders would be repaid through the 20 year housing assistance payments contract. It all comes with the RAD program. His calculations now tell him it shouldn't be more than $60 million.

It's not just the tenants of public housing who will get a boost. Hall said the changes will positively affect the Wichita economy.

"With the construction industry, it's going to provide a ton of temporary construction jobs but also that's going to filter down to all the vendors who supply for the construction industry," Hall said.

Plus, there's moving companies, storage companies, utility companies and so forth who will get business from the temporary moves. Not to mention the curb appeal these brand new homes will add to the city.

"Oh, it's nice. Always nice, something new," Resident James Green said about his soon to be brand new home.