SW Kansas ready to grow, but needs more housing

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GARDEN CITY, Kansas – Southwest Kansas might be the last place one would expect a housing shortage. Yet it is a region bursting at the seams, with serious opportunities for growth in the coming years.

But cities are having a tough time keeping up with demand. It’s an issue residents here have dealt with for years, but to outsiders looking to call southwest Kansas home, it’s a shock.

“It’s been really frustrating,” said Brian Plymesser, who’s moving from Ellsworth to take a job at a wind farm near Ulysses. “I’ve been to several realtors, been unable to find any rentals in my price range. I’m pretty flexible, and I’d like it to be a nice decent rental as well.”

Plymesser has been in the area for days looking for a good place he can call home, scanning the newspaper and going door to door to find leads.

His story is like many others in southwest Kansas. Anyone who lives here eventually hears the stories of people living in RV’s, hotels, or even co-workers’ basements before finding a place. Housing experts say the key to finding a home, is flexibility and patience.

“When you have a shortage of houses, you have buyers that are just a little more impatient with the market,” said Judy Nusser, a broker at Coldwell Banker in Garden City.

Nusser has seen plenty in her 33 years as a broker in southwest Kansas, including current conditions that favor sellers here.

“When a house goes out that is in perfect condition, has been priced exceptionally well, we deal with multiple offers in this market,” she said.

Although southwest Kansas avoided the worst of the damage from the housing bubble, caution from lenders promotes slow growth to builders.

“They will say you can build one house, and when that sells and closes, then you may start on the other,” she said. “That keeps the builder from having the advantages of being able to go from this site to this site to this site which would reduce his cost.”

And there is little relief in the rental market as well. With less than a one percent vacancy rate on rentals in Garden City, most apartment complexes have a waiting list. And when there is a vacancy, it fills quickly.

“[Renters] go online and look at the apartments, or they’ll have me take pictures of the apartments, and they rent them sight unseen,” said Candace Gamino, property manager at Garden Grove Properties, LLC. “This year it’s been quite the challenge for people coming to town.”

It is challenging to find developers to build apartments, and it usually takes incentives from local municipalities to convince them to build. With all her apartments currently rented out six to eight weeks in advance, Gamino says the demand is there for apartments.

“People are moving here to see if it’s a good fit,” she said. “And then, if it’s a good fit, they’ll buy a house later on. But for that interim period, they need an apartment.”

An apartment is an option for Plymesser, who is ideally looking for a 3-bedroom home or larger. For now, he’s staying in a hotel room, which many businesses in southwest Kansas are gracious enough to provide relocating workers. There is even enough demand for this that three hotels are currently under construction in Garden CIty and one in Dodge City.

After seeing first-hand what the housing shortage can do to test one’s patience, Plymesser has an idea many others have had before him.

“I think it would be a good time to get some major developers from across the country and the local area to start developing houses, spec houses would be a good thing,” he said.”

So what are municipalities in southwest Kansas doing to alleviate the shortage? Friday on KSN News at 10, we talk to several local cities about the issue to find out how they are working to provide housing for their growth.

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