Hillsboro hopes development leads to more rental space

Staff writer

There is a growing need for more rental property in Hillsboro, and that could change if things go a certain way.

Economic director Clint Seibel said he owns three rental properties, and he receives calls almost weekly inquiring about open spaces.

He currently has an expecting family of four moving into one of his houses. The three-bedroom house may be too small for the family, but they want to stay in the school district instead of moving to McPherson.

“There aren’t a lot of rentals available, particularly for larger families,” he said. “Three-bedroom rentals are hard to come by.”

Beth Hein of Fast Realty says she receives inquiries from people in many different situations — some in town, some recently hired in the area, some without jobs, and some families like the one renting from Seibel.

“Being in real estate, I probably get more calls than the typical landlord,” she said. “On average I get several calls a day, and then go several days without one.

“The housing development the city’s looking at would be an excellent solution.”

After hearing there was a need for better research and analysis in the state for housing, Jason Van Sickle began looking for solutions.

Using census data and working with various architects, engineers, and contractors, Van Sickle and his development team at J. Van Sickle and Company refined its model over a nine-month period before pitching it to more than 100 community representatives at the Kansas Rural Housing Conference in December.

Administrator Larry Paine attended the conference, where he had a chance to meet Van Sickle. The two later set up a meeting and Van Sickle was going to pitch his idea to chamber of commerce members before a family illness kept him from attending.

Paine said the city is still too early in the process to lean one way or another.

“We haven’t played with him long enough to know how serious his stuff is,” he said.

Van Sickle seems quite serious about his model though, developing an 84-page data report for every city and county in the state, which can be found online at http://www.kansasruralhousing.com.

“There’s $800 million in housing potential across the state,” Van Sickle said. “Hillsboro is in the 24 to 48 unit market. About a $2 to $4 million investment.”

Van Sickle said it is more expensive to build in smaller communities because they would have to bring their own supplies and rental costs are cheaper.

Even though the city is still only looking into the possibility, rental space could help those calling Seibel or Hein for a place to stay.

“It’s going to be a story until it’s either started or it’s dropped,” Paine said.

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