Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a weekly, four-part series about housing in Emporia.
When Clinton Shown moved back to Emporia, he knew he wanted to buy a house.
At 21, he purchased an older home on the 700 block of Union Street that had sat empty on the market for more than a year right at the time Emporia’s market was seeing an influx of available properties due to layoffs at Tyson.
“I bought the house with instant equity,” he said. “It was almost $20,000 instant equity. I think I partially got lucky being in the right time and the right place, but I think I got lucky with a realtor who was very hands-on. The market was — they needed to sell homes.”
Now 30, Shown said he and his wife Nici have seen a lot of changes happening in their neighborhood. There are more houses owned by landlords now, and more homes falling into various stages of disrepair.
“The city tore down one house on the block as part of the rehab, so that improved our block quite a bit,” he said. “We have a really close-knit neighborhood. Everybody knows everybody and we all try to communicate, but the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that some people just don’t care enough about their homes or they can’t afford it.”
Shown said his family has considered selling their home during a seller’s market, to try and capitalize on getting more money back on their investment.
“It is intriguing and it’s something we’ve talked about,” he said. “At the end of the day, we love our house, and there’s so much more potential there. My theory is, in five years if I can put $5,000 - $10,000 into the home, then we can get a better return on it. It’s definitely been a conversation, but the question is, where do we go?”
Both Shown and his wife like older homes that might be a little too big, but have a lot of character.
“Where can you find something that’s anywhere close to move-in ready?” he said. “I don’t mind doing the work, but I can’t fix a house out of nothing. I think that’s the bigger thing is. Homes today aren’t built today like homes from years ago.”
So, for now, Shown said his family is content where it is.
With efforts to address housing needs happening locally, work is also being done on the state level.
Governor Laura Kelly recently signed an amendment to a bill that allows more time for developers to get payback on the Rural Housing Incentive District after the amendment was passed by both the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate.
The RHID program, which passed in 1998, was designed to help developers build housing in Kansas cities with populations less than 40,000 located in counties with populations of less than 60,000. Counties with total populations less than 40,000 are also eligible. Starting July 1, the updated RHID will capture 100 percent of the incremental increase in real property taxes for up to 25 years — up from 15 years — as long as the property is within a redevelopment district.
“I think what we looked at was, with the infrastructure cost and the limited term on 15 years, you had to build pretty expensive houses to realize the payback in property tax to pay for the infrastructure,” Senator Jeff Longbine said. “By extending the legislation from 15 years to 25 years, it should allow developers the ability to build a less expensive house, but still recoup their money over time.”
Longbine said the need for low-to-moderate priced housing was not an issue unique to Emporia.
“It is not just a local issue and it is something, from testimony we heard, is statewide,” he said. “Houses in the $150,000 - $200,000 range is where the biggest shortage is. I think the legislature was hopeful that by extending that RHID for another 10 years, it would allow those builders to build houses closer to that price range.”
Jamie Sauder, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Emporia Real Estate, said adding more time to that payback period would allow developers to focus on moderate-to-entry level markets, rather than high-end developments like Hidden Vista.
“This change goes a long way to alleviate risk in developing residential areas,” he said. “The cost of construction has greatly outpaced the value of new real estate developments, which makes residential real estate developments a losing proposition. Adding more time to the payback period will allow developers to gear projects toward moderate and entry-level markets, rather than high-end only.”
Shown, who is also a Habitat for Humanity board member, said he believes there are some exciting solutions coming down the pike.
“I’m really excited for Ignite Emporia and what they are going to do,” he said.
Ignite Emporia is a five-part plan that will focus on housing, workforce development, business retention, community development and marketing.
“At the end of the day, we don’t have good, solid, middle-of-the-road homes,” he said. “Everything that we have around here (in that range) is outdated, and nobody wants to put the work into them. I think that’s where we need some incentive for people to be homeowners again. Through Habitat, one of the things that we do is we ensure that people can afford a house, and they put some labor into that home. And the way Habitat works is, we hold the mortgages and that funds our next project.”
Locally, Habitat for Humanity sells homes between $70,000 - $80,000.
“We can give a homeowner a house with instant equity in it, but I don’t think we can do it fast enough,” Shown said. “If I were to ask the city something, it would be to come up with some way to incentivize being a homeowner. And I don’t know what the answer is, but I feel like that would be a good way to go about it.”
Longbine said housing discussions and incentives will be on the table when the state legislature returns to session in January.
“There is an rural innovation committee on the House side that is looking at all kinds of rural revitalization programs,” he said. “I know housing is one of their top priorities. Hopefully they will come up with new thoughts and ideas and present those to the legislature next year.”