By KAREN LA PIERRE

klapierre@dailynews.net

For those searching for the dream home in Hays, they might have found it difficult due to a lack of affordable housing. Some employers have complained they have lost employees because they can't find a reasonable place to live.

A new program in housing renovation is being developed by the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development to fill that niche in the $120,000- to $145,000-price range.

"We're pretty excited about this," Aaron White, executive director of ECCED, told the Ellis County Commission last week. "We are in a tight housing market. It fills a need defined by the community.

"We just don't see a lot (of housing) that meets that price point."

White said the program is still in the planning stages and the parameters might shift. Plus, sources of funding still need to be developed.

"We hope to see houses move in Ellis County," White said. "The idea is to encourage quick renovations."

Seed money would be loaned to licensed contractors to purchase a house in Ellis County and renovate it. There would be no interest, only a fee.

The term of the loan would be six months only, and the home could not be sold for more than $145,000, White said. That includes the flat service fee.

White anticipates six to 12 homes can be renovated in one year throughout the county. The program would be available in any community in Ellis County.

In addition, "the project has to reflect the neighborhood," he said.

The project will not include building from the ground up, but with a minimum of $10,000 in renovations.

The program will not be open to hobbyists, but to those making a living in the construction trades.

The program would be "filling a need defined by the community," White said.

"Our builders are building higher-end, custom-built homes," White said. "We just don't see a lot of homes in that middle pricing range."

White has been told the housing crunch affects the hiring ability of employers. They recruit folks with the needed skill set, but the employees don't stay long.

"It's impacting the supervisory management position," he said. "Sometimes they only stay six weeks having lived in a hotel, but cannot find an affordable place to live, and they go back to where they came from.

"A number of employers have told us this has been an issue."

The revolving loan fund would operate under the 501(c)3 umbrella of ECCED. All proposals to purchase a home and renovate would involved a partnership with a realtor and would be reviewed by a loan review panel to ensure the project is reasonable.

The money would be repaid after the home is sold.

They hope to start projects this summer.