July 31, 2014

Council debates approval of tax credits for income-based housing

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
City council members agreed to support an application for tax credits for the construction of income-based, single family housing in Gardner.
David Rhodes is the developer of the proposed Willow Brooke Estates, to be located at the intersection of Oak and McKinley Streets in Gardner. The tax credits, if granted, would subsidize renters for 15 years with incomes between 40 and 60 percent of the median income in newly-constructed homes. The homes would rent for between $500 and $1,100 per month.
Rhodes applied for the tax credits last year with the approval of council, but must submit another application this year. The homes have yet to be constructed or formally approved by the planning commission or council.
“I’m trying to build houses for people who probably would not otherwise be able to afford them,” Rhodes told council members during a heated discussion.
Council member Larry Fotovich worried that the income-based housing would depress area property values affecting the tax valuations within the city.
“Why don’t you just build houses?” He asked Rhodes. “It’s the best use for Gardner’s tax base.”
Rhodes, the developer of Bethel Estates, a four-plex development which houses seniors, said he has more than $30 million invested in Gardner.
“I hope you would look at Bethel Estates and see the quality there,” he said.
Under the tax credit program, Rhodes said he would be responsible for exterior maintenance of the new construction including lawn care and snow removal.
“You, Larry, are not interested in issuing a letter of support, you’re driving me away,” Rhodes said.
Fotovich also said from a fiscally conservative position, whether it was in the best interest of Kansas taxpayers, including Gardner citizens, to subsidize rental properties.
Though Rhodes is applying for the tax credits through the state, federal money is used to subsidize the low-income rentals, Rhodes explained.
“These are federal funds,” council vice president Chris Morrow said. “…Somebody is going to get this money, and I believe Mr. Rhodes should have a chance at it.”
Four of five council members agreed to the resolution supporting Rhodes’ tax credit application. Fotovich voted against it.

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