The rental housing market in Manhattan remains flat, according to Riley County appraiser Greg McHenry.

McHenry said although the local market is flat, it’s not “unhealthy” or trending downward.

McHenry didn’t have final numbers ready Thursday, but last year, he said the K-State campus area had a median occupancy rate of 96 percent, and the noncampus area had a median occupancy rate of 85 percent.

“I would probably describe it as very, very competitive, and still very flat in terms of rents, occupancies and all those types of things,” McHenry said.

He told the Riley County Commission on Thursday that local landlords are facing a rise in costs for property insurance as well as rental repairs and maintenance.

McHenry reported there have been a total of 1,067 property sales through Nov. 30, a dip of 0.3% from a year ago. Of those, 921 were home sales, he said. That is a 1.49% decrease compared to the same time last year.

Last year, the county had 1,071 total sales and 935 home sales through Nov. 30.

This year, the median home sale price was $193,000, McHenry said. He did not provide statistics from 2018 in that specific category.

McHenry said there was a drop in building permits compared to last year.

There were 356 building permits issued through Sept. 30, compared to 386 during the same time period in 2018. That is a decrease of about 7.7%.

Commissioner John Ford asked McHenry if he expects home sales to rise once National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) employees start to move into the area next year.

“There’s a lot of talk about that,” he said. “I guess I’m a little, I don’t want to say skeptical; I’m not skeptical about it. But I just don’t think there’ll be a land rush in 2020. It’s going to take awhile to get the lab up and running, tested and up and running.”

In other action Thursday, commissioners:

  • Discussed the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund (LAVTR). Chair Ron Wells said the Wichita Eagle recently published an article about how the state hasn’t distributed money from the fund, which is supposed help counties reduce property taxes, for 15 years.

Wells said he was pleased with the Eagle’s reporting and said that The Mercury refuses to write about the issue. In fact, this year, The Mercury has written six articles that reference the fund.

Commissioner John Ford said coverage of the issue helped bring the situation to light.

“I don’t think the government would have had any true idea of what was going on with that,” he said.

“Manhattan’s ignored it,” Wells said. “We’ve talked about it for three years now.”

“The Mercury has been opposed (to covering it),” Wells continued. “Of course, Megan Moser and Ned Seaton wrote that (editorial) lampooning me for going to see the governor.”

  • Approved moving forward with several bridge replacement projects in the county. Commissioners approved beginning design contracts with several different contracting entities for bridges including the Winkler Mills Road, Fancy Creek Road, Rosehill Road and South Otter Road bridges, among others. The projects will be funded out of sales tax funds, said Gary Rosewicz, assistant county engineer. The commission also approved removing the Bodaville Road bridge project from the list of bridge improvements as recent rehabilitation work fixed it, Rosewicz said.
  • Approved changing a tract of land in Keats from an agricultural district to a residential planned unit development. The commission also approved replatting the five lots on the property into one lot.
  • Approved distributing extra public work funds to area projects. The commission approved transferring $26,231.62 from the parks budget for shelter and playground improvements at the park in Keats. Commissioners also approved transferring a total of $95,000 from the parks budget to the Keats Park shelter project for $20,000 and CiCo Park playground project for $75,000.
  • Approved an organizational chart detailing positions within the county as well as the relationship between employees and supervisors.
  • Held a 15-minute executive session to have preliminary discussions about acquisition of real property and a 30-minute executive session about potential litigation issues. Commissioners did not take any formal or binding action after the executive sessions.