By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
In 2005, a plot of land was deeded to the City of Liberal as a gift. Although it has sat vacant for sometime, the lot will eventually be transformed into 14 homes for the Self Help Housing Project.
In order to make the lot appropriate for such development, an invitation to bid was made in order to construct improvements on the property such as a street and utility access.
“The M.C. Wheeler Addition was deeded over to us in July of 2005 as a gift,” Housing and Community Development Director Karen LaFreniere said. “The property has been sitting there, being mowed, since that time. We have been mowing it, that is all we have done with it so far.
“We are going to continue Seward Street from Spruce to Pine, so that is basically a block,” she explained. “Oklahoma Court it is going to be Oklahoma Street continued, but into a cul-de-sac. It is a piece of property that has been sitting there for quite awhile.”
J&R Sand’s bid of $356,896 for improvements was accepted by the city commission during its April 13 regular meeting. Commissioner Bob Carlile, however, abstained from voting on the matter.
Academy Court off of Western Avenue is currently under construction for the Self Help Housing Program. Next on the agenda for the Housing and Community Development Department, the M.C. Wheeler Addition.
“My goal, I think, was to use up Academy Court before we started on this project,” LaFreniere said. “It took a long time to put this together with engineering and environmental with everything you have to do. Fortunately, I do have a lot of help with that from people who know.”
Each piece of land the city has acquired for the Self Help Housing Project has become available in its own unique way, LaFreniere said.
“(The City of Liberal) owned the lots that we did when we started,” she said. “We did the 12 houses down south. That was acquired before I started here. It was deeded to us in lieu of taxes or something like that. So, we had those lots.
“I had people who wanted to build up north, there were lots available on Tamarack,” she continued. “What we did was the Self Help borrowers purchased the property. They had to wait until they got their loans through and everything, but it did work out. They purchased the property directly.
“I knew we had Academy Court,” she explained. “The challenge on that, at first, was USDA really didn’t want us to build there. I did get approval on that.”
Giving everyone in the community an opportunity for fair and affordable housing iS the premise that drives LaFreniere and the city to continue the Self Help Housing Project so energetically.
“It is our goal to put as much affordable housing out here that we can,” LaFreniere said. “Unfortunately, we run out of developed property so this was our option to keep our program going.
“We have so many people right now that want to do Self Help,” she added. “That is good, but right now we have quite a few qualified and we are going to be limited to 12 more houses. It is really first come first serve.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Self Help Housing Program is invited to Mead Lumber from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Housing and Community Development Department will be on site to answer questions and help those who may qualify possibly begin the process of owning their own home.