The majority of the Manhattan City Commission is in favor of conducting a housing market analysis and policy strategy study in the next year.
The commission Tuesday discussed this study, which will cost the city $95,000. It took no official action, but the comments by the majority of commissioners indicated support.
It aims to address affordable housing issues faced by residents by gathering data and public input, said Chad Bunger, assistant director of community development for the city.
The city plans to hire a consultant to help with the study, which will take 12-18 months to conduct.
Bunger said the action is in response to conversations with community members and advocacy groups who have expressed interest in the city taking action to create more affordable housing.
“The idea here is that we would hire a consultant or consulting team to help the community develop this critical, competent housing policy document that’ll provide us with strategies, policies, projects and programs to address suitable housing needs for Manhattan,” Bunger said.
Although mayor Usha Reddi, commissioners Linda Morse and Aaron Estabrook liked the study proposal, commissioners Mark Hatesohl and Wynn Butler pushed back on the idea, stating that it’s a waste of time and money.
“It troubles me; we want to spend $95,000 on a consultant,” Butler said.
Instead, Butler suggested creating a local housing advisory board to produce data.
“They can probably produce as good of data as any consultant can, and it won’t cost us $95,000,” Butler said.
In order to drive rental costs down, Hatesohl suggested that people get a roommate.
“That’s the most affordable thing that anybody can ever do to ... drive down their housing costs,” he said. “Everybody would like to have a one bedroom apartment and live by themselves and have a dog. Well, that’s $700 a month with the pet rent. And so maybe you don’t always get exactly what you want. But there are ways: get a roommate, get a two bedroom for 750 bucks and don’t get a dog, and suddenly you got 200 bucks more in your pocket every month.”
Reddi said the issue of affordable housing has been prevalent even before she was elected on the city commission. She said it’s important to invest money in analysis to gather more concrete data about the city’s housing climate.
“The conversation has always been around housing, whether it’s rental housing, suitable housing, affordable housing, K-State housing; whatever it is, it’s always been about housing,” she said. “But we’ve never had anything concrete to hold onto. So I think this is something we need to have, is the data piece, and to have somebody that’s impartial.”
Morse said she would like to get updated statistics of how many people are homeless in Manhattan with this study.
“I really can’t get that from any one source that isn’t three years old,” Morse said.
Estabrook said this document will give the city an “objective analysis” on what exactly are the housing problems in the community.
The commission also discussed which city fund to use to pay for the study, such as economic development or utility funds. The commission did not formally decide which fund to use to pay for the study.
Butler said he didn’t want to pay for the study with enterprise funds — water, wastewater and stormwater.
Reddi said it didn’t matter to her how the city decides to pay.
“I think the outcome is eventually we will have data enough to make sure we have housing, which also includes our pipes and whatever plumbing systems that we want to have, and where they are,” Reddi said.
The next step is for officials to create a draft request for qualifications.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners:
- Approved levying special assessment taxes to 23 properties within benefit districts in the city. The commission held a public hearing to discuss these special projects, but no one spoke.
The total project cost is approximately $4.9 million. Officials estimated the total bond at $4.89 million.
The 23 projects are as follows:
- Pinehurst addition — sanitary sewer, street and water
- Scenic Crossing addition — sanitary sewer, street and water
- West Anderson Avenue — street
- Lansdowne addition, unit three — sanitary sewer, street and water
- Ledge Stone addition — street and water
- Ledgestone Ridge addition — sanitary sewer, street, multi-use trail and water
- Legacy Ridge addition — sanitary sewer, street and water
- The Highlands at Grand Mere unit one/Prairie Village at The Highlands, unit one — sanitary sewer, street and water
- Wells Landing — sanitary sewer, street and water
The city sells bonds twice a year, usually in May and November, officials said.