1 in 8 houses 'need repairs'

Staff writer

One hundred houses in Marion failed to pass muster in a recent drive-by assessment of housing conditions, with 15 deemed beyond repair for reasonable cost.

Considering 2010 Census data showed 846 occupied houses in Marion, that means about seven out of eight houses are in good shape.

Economic development director Randy Collett told the few people who attended a Thursday night public presentation what the group that conducted the assessment found and what they suggested to address the situation.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the community has been discussing housing for several years.

“It’s hard to ignore those properties that are in poor repair,” Heitschmidt said.

The committee met six times and took a “windshield tour” of every house in the city. Members concluded the city faces three housing issues and that many sidewalks are “deplorable.”

“This study has helped us remove the folklore that has developed about housing,” Collett said.

Jeremiah Lange, a member of the housing assessment team, said viewing houses gave him the opportunity to take new notice of the community.

The area he looked at was generally north of Main St. and east of Luta creek.

“We get into these ruts where we just notice the things that we want to notice and don’t notice the things we don’t want to notice,” Lange said.

He noticed things like houses in need of roofing work, paint, and repairs to decks or porches.

Although none of the volunteers are engineers, some needed repairs are easy to see, Lange said.

“You can usually tell if a roof needs some work. You can usually tell if the gutter is hanging off,” he said. “You get some of that tunnel vision and don’t see the things around you. I think in general things are probably better than I expected.”

Lange said he also enjoyed the cooperative work with other committee members on behalf of community improvement.

“It was neat to work with people like that and get to know other people,” Lange said.

City officials have four goals in mind after the study.

  • They want to develop programs in addition to existing sidewalk subsidies to help owners reinvest in their property.
  • They hope to spur home improvement across town.
  • They want to see a patio home project where any seniors, regardless of income, can live with home and lawn maintenance provided.
  • They want to develop a rental inspection and resource program.

Collett said the 2010 Census reported 127 vacant houses in town.

The team saw numerous maintenance issues involving paint, roofs, porches and gutters, and noted sidewalks are generally in poor condition and lighting in some places is inadequate.

Collett said the city has no senior assisted living housing without income limitations.

However, Homestead Senior Residences on E. Main might remove income limits for a portion of their housing after negotiations with USDA Rural Development are finished. USDA earlier notified Homestead the agency will withdraw their financial support for part of the development after maintenance issues caused a number of the residents to be moved to a different building.

The team reported that not enough three to four bedroom family homes are available, and a gap exists in available houses in the $65,000 to $90,000 price range.

The report did not indicate how many of each type the committee would consider adequate.

A search of the website Zillow.com showed 13 homes for sale with three or more bedrooms, priced between $69,000 and $235,000, and seven houses listed for sale with Heerey Real Estate were priced between $65,000 and $90,000.

Housing assessment team members spoke with the city’s major employers, including Marion County, St. Luke Hospital, USD 408, City of Marion, Western Associates, Carlsons’ Grocery, Marion Die and Fixture, Prairieland Partners, and Marion Manufacturing.

Those employers reported they’d created 14 new jobs last year and expect to create 21 jobs in 2017. None reported jobs unfilled because of a lack of adequate housing, but they said three employees have inadequate housing and are seeking better living conditions.

St. Luke Hospital reported recruitment difficulties for new physicians, the committee’s official report states, while USD 408 told the team that housing requirements of eight new teachers hired for the 2016-2017 school year were met.

Today in Newton, Collett will present study findings to a panel of officials representing the Kansas Department of Commerce, USDA rural development program, and Kansas Housing Resource Corporation.

Last modified July 21, 2016