Housing issues in city's sights



Hays city commissioners will look at proposed solutions to Hays housing at the 6:30 p.m. work session Thursday at city hall.

A housing needs assessment performed by RDG Planning & Design several months ago and presented to commissioners identified areas of housing needs in the Hays community.

"RDG did show that we have some issues in terms of the amount of housing and that it's a growing concern," said Aaron White, director of Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development. "And it's something that as the university moves forward with expansion and anticipated growth within the community, it is not going to go away."

White said the city is well behind the 90 annual housing unit starts recommended by RDG. From January until September, the city had issued permits for 20 single-family, five duplexes and one multi-family unit.

"So we are well behind what RDG thinks we are going to require to meet up with the demand," White said.

In addition, the cost of housing is out-of-line with local average household income. Of the 20 new housing starts, 16 were above $200,000 and averaged $286,000. With an average median household income of $44,000 in Ellis County, White said the housing prices signal "a significant affordability issue."

Commissioners requested City Manager Toby Dougherty move forward with a plan to address the needs identified in RDG's study. In the interim, a Smart Growth Workshop to discuss housing, growth, planning and zoning issues took place with city staff.

Recommendations from both the housing assessment and Smart Growth Workshop, as well as pertinent sections from Hays' comprehensive plan, will be discussed Thursday night. In addition, Dougherty will give commissioners his recommendations for studying and developing solutions to the community's housing needs.

"I would like to frame the issue for the city commission," Dougherty said in a meeting memo. "Discuss how we have dealt with it in the past and present what I feel is a good option to address it moving forward."

During Thursday's work session, commissioners also will discuss the upcoming legislative session with John Pinegar and Doug Smith of Pinegar, Smith and Associates Inc.