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Topeka leaders hope the new program addresses the housing shortage

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – The City of Topeka is taking steps to create more housing.

“The Rural Housing Incentive District is a great tool that the Department of Commerce and the Kansas Legislature gave Topeka in their last session. So this is the first time we’ve had a chance to use that,” said Stephen Wade, City Manager of Topeka.

City Manager Stephen Wade says Rural Housing Incentive Districts (RHIDs) will encourage developers to build more new homes in Topeka.

“It gives us an opportunity to increase the number of houses and homes for both people who currently live here and people who are looking to move to Topeka. We spent a lot of time talking and researching the need for available housing.”

Wade says the city’s housing needs analysis showed that Topeka currently has a shortage of quality, available housing.

“There was a housing study that was done, and what it showed was at all levels of the market, from least expensive to most expensive, we just don’t have enough homes in Topeka right now and so the RHID process is a possibility to build more houses in order to be able to satisfy those needs”.

He says the problem is not new.

“It’s been a long-term challenge for Topeka, so what we wanted was to identify exactly what those needs were, and now that we’ve got those in place, we’re developing programs to try and reach that stock.”

RHID blocks incremental property tax increases created by developers for up to 25 years.

“So what it does makes it cheaper to do it. It’s the tax considerations that make it a little less expensive so they can come in and build those houses and we can use them,” Wade said.

Molly Howey, president of Go Topeka, says there is more than enough demand in this real estate market for developers to build more homes.

“Now that we have such a demand for housing, it affects workforce development which in turn becomes a matter of economic development. If we are going to attract companies to come here and the workforce they need to fill those jobs, they need homes and places to live,” Howey said.

Rural housing incentive districts are only available to cities with populations under 60,000, counties under 80,000, or the City of Topeka.

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