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Group: Housing prices a concern





In the first of five housing stakeholder group meetings, topics critical to Hays' housing were explored by more than 20 real estate agents, landlords and lenders Tuesday morning.

Emerging at the top of the list of concerns, perhaps not surprisingly, were high housing and land costs.

Stakeholder groups met Tuesday and Wednesday in forums facilitated by a housing study group authorized by the Hays City Commission. Those groups targeted included employers, developers, builders, contractors, students, renters and first-time homeowners.

A variety of housing issues, from quality of housing stock to availability of housing for seniors, emerged as concerns of residents in the city's recent comprehensive plan, City Manager Toby Dougherty said.

The limited availability of quality rentals and how to strike a balance between supply and demand also were discussed by the group.

"We have great rental demand because of the university students absorbing a lot of the rental property," said Chris Wente of Golden Belt Bank. "It hurts on the other side for professionals and young families that are wanting to rent and can't find properties because they're competing against the college.

"You can overbuild to that and get a ton of apartment complexes and all of a sudden, you've got a lot of rentals open that people are going into."

Overall, though, housing study group member I.D. Creech said, community members should keep in mind the positive outcomes that emerge from a thriving university community.

"It's not an 'us' and 'them' type situation," Creech said. "They're part of the pool.

"Housing them is a good thing."

Out-migration of young professionals because of the disparity between housing costs and income in Hays stood out in the mind of Laura Sadeghi of Heartland Realty of Hays.

"That's our real problem: jobs for young professionals," Sadeghi said. "We're losing that group, and those young families.

"We just can't maintain the cost of living here with the types of jobs we have available. I think that's primary."

Dougherty pointed out the third biggest employment sector in Hays, behind FHSU and Hays Medical Center, is the service industry. As a retail hub, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, shopping and convenience stores provide a good portion of Hays' employment.

The shortage of houses on the Hays market is a likely contributing factor to housing costs, Dougherty said. According to Errol Wuertz of Heartland Realty, 54 houses were on the market Saturday in Hays. In his opinion, he said, 125 houses in various price ranges would be an adequate amount of houses to have on the market at any given time.