“It’s shocking, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” commissioner Ron Fisher said.
McCarron took that figure from Reno County Appraiser’s records, which list 901 residences in poor, 43 in poor-minus and 93 in very poor condition. The Planning and Development Department compiled that information as part of a housing needs analysis required for the city to establish rural housing incentive districts.
Those districts make it easier to build new neighborhoods by reducing the need for special assessments for streets and utility lines. The difference in property taxes from before construction to after – the tax increment – pays for those improvements, rather than special assessments.
They function similarly to tax increment finance districts, which are used for commercial development. The Hutchinson Mall was granted a tax increment finance district earlier this year for its redevelopment.
The housing needs analysis also showed 4.9 percent of houses and apartments didn’t have complete kitchens, and another 3.8 percent didn’t have complete plumbing, based on a 2013 American Community Survey. The same data showed the median age of housing in Hutchinson was 58 years, oldest among comparable cities in the area.
Meanwhile, since 2009 the city actually has lost housing. McCarron said demolitions have outpaced new construction by 38 units.
Later in the meeting, commissioners discussed ways to use $70,000 the City Council set aside for housing initiatives, to help make a dent in the issues the housing assessment raised. Interfaith Housing Services Inc. has proposed creation of a $50,000 revolving loan fund, which would help it buy, fix up and resell distressed houses – like those in the 1,100 that need to be replaced.
Fisher, director of operations for Interfaith Housing, said the organization has enough volunteers on board that with funding for its program, it could possibly turn a house around every two months.
Commissioner Scott Cooley said he wasn’t opposed to the proposal, but he urged the commission to consider possible backlash from for-profit house flippers if it went forward. Commissioner Richard Greever countered, saying Interfaith Housing handles houses that private individuals wouldn’t touch. Commissioner Aubrey Patterson also said Hutchinson can’t let worries about stepping on someone’s toes keep it from doing what it can about housing.
In other business, Mark Eaton and Sue Poltera reported that the Hutchinson Land Bank was able to purchase all seven properties it was interested in on the Tuesday tax sale, and for about $7,000 less than was budgeted. Poltera said the Land Bank purchased each of the lots for between $100 and $600. It will seek to get the properties – all vacant lots – back in use as soon as possible, and some could be used in housing development.