Amy Cunningham
[email protected]
The Gardner City Council voted on Monday night to lend support to a new plan to bring additional low-income housing to the city by 2012.
MRE Capital will leverage the council’s support when applying for tax credits for single-family housing to be built as part of the University Park development located on the north side of University Drive, just west of Moonlight Road.
At least one detractor of the plan, John Lindstrom who lives in the adjacent Genesis Creek Estates subdivision, spoke at the meeting.  He requested that the council hold their votes at Monday’s meeting and notify area residents before moving forward with their support for the plan.  Lindstrom also asked the city to do a more thorough job of notifying neighbors whose home values may be affected by the addition of low-income housing to the surrounding area.
Mayor David Drovetta explained that a vote of support by the council would only provide backing for the developer on their application to the federal government for tax credits related to the development.
Lindstrom replied, “Once that (development) has the support the ball is already rolling and that will make it harder to backtrack.”
The first phase of development calls for 40 single-family units and 100 duplexes to be constructed.  Forty percent of the homes are expected to be income-restricted; occupants may not make more than $20,000 as a single or $43,000 as a family of four.  Twenty percent of the homes will be available for seniors and the remaining 40 percent will be available for purchase at market rate.  Proposed amenities at the development include a community building, a playground, picnic table, barbecue grill and green space with paved walking paths.
According to Jake Mooney of MRE Capitol, homes will be leased on a rent-to-own basis.
“The rent to own process is relatively new,” he explained.  “…we don’t build it and walk away. We’ll go from a management role to converting (the tenant to a homeowner).”
Renters will occupy the homes for up to 15 years at which time the homes will become available for ownership.  At that time tenants would have equity towards the purchase price equal to one percent for each year of their tenancy towards their purchase.  For example, if a renter occupied a home for the entire 15, year duration of the program they would have 15 percent equity towards the purchase price of the home.
At year 15 if a tenant chooses not to purchase their dwelling from the program they will not be left homeless, they can remain a renter.
Mooney said his company would be responsible for maintaining the property for the next decade and a half.  In addition to income qualifications tenants must submit to a criminal background check, credit check and renter background checks.  He also said that if a tenant’s earnings increased over time they would not be disqualified from occupancy or the rent to own program.
“We’re raising the bar for what rental housing is in Gardner because they’ll be some of the nicest rentals (available),” Mooney promised.
In other business the Gardner City Council:
• Is working on plans to sell the former City Hall building located at 112 S. Elm Street.  They have accepted a bid of $100,000 from Gardner Martial Arts and, if things go according to plan, expect to close in February, 2011.
• Approved authorizing the Mayor to execute an interlocal agreement for water supply from Hillsdale Lake.
This will consolidate into one the contract items that are currently  individually submitted to the Kansas Water Office (KWO) by the following entities: Gardner, Edgerton, Spring Hill and Wellsville and Rural Water
Districts:  Johnson County No. 7, Miami County Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4; Douglas County No. 4 and Franklin County No. 1.
Consolidating individual contracts and applications into a single contract ensures that adequate water supply would be available from Hillsdale Reservoir for all public water supply agencies.
The move will need approval from the Kansas Attorney General.