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City highlights benefits of housing programs PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 18 November 2017 15:57

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of the story recapping the 1-cent sales tax presentation that took place at the most recent Liberal City Commission meeting Tuesday evening and will cover what was talked about with the Housing and Community Development Department.   


Among the many things in Liberal that has benefitted from the 1-cent sales tax has been the Housing and Community Development Department, and according to City Manager Mark Hall Tuesday evening, that department has indeed seen many changes since the inception of the 1-cent sales tax. 

“It is one of those that out of all the budget division of the 1-cent sales tax, housing gets 15 percent,” Hall said. “From 2001 to 2011, the estimated budget was $350,000 and the estimated budget right now stands at $525,000, which is a conservative estimate. In 1994, housing had a portions which they did more extensively in other parts and what they did was come up with a strategic plan on housing, which was all they could do because they were unsure about some things. But it did give directions.”

Hall also talked about suggestions from 2000 from Liberal citizens regarding housing, including additional affordable housing for lower and middle income families being built, using some revenue to assist disadvantaged homeowners in upgrading and winterizing their homes in order to bring them up to code and recruiting developers, builders and subcontractors and offer incentives, (all three of which have been done, according to Hall) among others. 

“There’s certain things in the sales tax and suggestions we can do,” Hall said. “There’s some we can do, some we can’t do and legally speaking, there’s some things we can’t do but some things we can. And then there’s the question of money where some things we can afford and some we can’t. But it is one of those where if we’re looking at a stick we’re comparing everything to, this is the stick we use. And we go back and look at opportunities and then changes in the environment in Liberal dictate we might not get to everything.”

Hall also brought up a list of suggestions from 2010 from Liberal citizens which included developing helping OTLR, helping the Stepping Stone Shelter, continuing the First Time Homebuyer Program and public transportation, among many others, all of which have been done, according to Hall. 

“If you remember, there was a low turnout in the Focus on the Future meetings,” Hall said. “And like with housing, there’s some things we can’t do and I just want to commend how we’re trying to sit and put in applications with FEMA for tornado shelters – we don’t know how that would turn out, but all they can say is yes or no. With housing the programs all have a lot of benefits, we do advertise and reach out to the public, but there are a lot of programs people are unaware of and we try to get word out about those and we do discuss them at State of the City.”

Hall further praised the work of the Housing and Community Development Department, saying the department has added many “tools” over the years to help people, including special assessments and neighborhood revitalization programs. He also praised the First-Time Homebuyer Program, the Self-Help Housing Program and the Senior Citizens Housing programs, among other work having been done throughout the years. He also showed a slide regarding miscellaneous expenses to the various housing programs and again praised the work done by the Housing Department.

“I do want to say right now, and tanks to Karen [LaFreniere], we do have an RHID, which has been utilized several times in this city,” Hall said. “In 1994, it was made available in Kansas and it was kind of a sleeper program. It came out and it is a special program that assists developers. It’s only available for communities with a less than 60,000 population. It’s a super program.”

Hall also expressed praise for the Self-Help Housing Program.

“So far, we have 63 homes with an appraise value of $8,186,970 that goes on the books and tax rolls,” Hall said. “These are homes where the owners get low loans through the USDA and it is one of those where it’s sweat equity. And the thing is, what has resulted from this program is not only giving a low to moderate income person in a home for the first time, but it puts an annual property tax of $167,000 on the tax rolls, so what a great program. And another great thing is this is not a competition with builders, we actually do a bid process, we use the majority of it and we try to always use local. What a gift this is. I actually spoke to Garden City and Dodge City and they can’t qualify for this program because of their populations. We are still in it and we did have help from Senator Moran and some others to still keep us in.”

Hall went over some more numbers and talked about some potential programs and projects for the future as well as work currently going on in the community before concluding his presentation. 

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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