Kansas Produces Long-Awaited Housing Needs Assessment that Falls Short on Addressing Needs of Low-Income People

The State of Kansas Office of Rural Prosperity, in partnership with the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, conducted a statewide housing needs assessment in 2021. The final report provides statewide and regional data on housing needs, population trends, and housing market dynamics. The goals of the report are to identify current housing needs and outline strategic initiatives to guide the state’s future housing development efforts to meet new goals. The report was based on a series of over 70 virtual and in-person listening sessions with more than 425 community participants across the state, meetings with housing stakeholder groups, and a statewide survey of more than 4,400 respondents.

The report includes key findings that were presented through region-specific presentations:

  • Prioritize middle-income housing
  • Diversify housing stock to meet local needs
  • Extend housing security
  • Reinvest in older housing stock, including vacant units
  • Address the building trades labor shortage
  • Extend existing human capital resources

While acknowledging that finding quality, affordable housing is difficult for renters—and that Kansas renters are more housing cost-burdened than homeowners—the report includes few recommendations to address the needs of low- and extremely-low income renters. The report suggests ways the state could make the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit more attractive for developers and acknowledges that the national Housing Trust Fund is available to support rental developments. Regarding low-income housing, however, no state or local-level strategies or recommendations are presented. Finally, the report recommends communities should consider a risk mitigation program that assists landlords in meeting voucher requirements for Housing Choice Vouchers and provides additional insurance for any damages that may occur from the renter.

The report’s prioritization of middle-income housing is disconcerting. In Kansas, there is no shortage of affordable and available rental homes for middle-income households; indeed there is a surplus such housing. For every 100 renter households at 100% area median income (AMI) in the state, there are 110 affordable and available rental homes. By contrast, extremely low-income renters face a severe shortage of affordable homes. For every 100 renter households living at or below 30% of AMI, there are only 49 affordable and available rental homes. Only 6% of middle-income renters in Kansas face housing cost burdens (meaning they pay more than 30% of their gross income on rent and utilities), while 85% of extremely low-income renters households in Kansas are cost-burdened. While some discussion of these data points were included in presentations of the Kansas Statewide Housing Needs Assessment, the needs of the lowest-income renters are missing from recommendations in the report.