Feb 03, 2022

🎙Upcoming report to highlight ongoing housing shortage in Ellis Co.

Posted Feb 03, 2022 11:55 AM

Hays Post

Grow Hays, the Ellis County economic development organization, will soon release its annual housing report detailing the good and bad of the housing market in the county.

Once again, the report is expected to show a challenging home market.

“As of this morning, in the MLS, there are 20 homes in Ellis County for sale, there's 12 in Hays, and five of those 12 are priced at over $499,000,” Grow Hays Executive Director Doug Williams said on Friday. “So it doesn't take very long to figure out that we have some issues with housing.”

While the available housing inventory will likely be the most notable information to be released in the report, it will also share other key indicators of the area market.

“We report on the number of building permits that were issued, the number of new homes, new multifamily projects, and that type of thing and, and that'll provide some additional information for people,” Williams said.

He said the report paints a grim picture for the county as potential residents struggle to find a home.

“Just imagine yourself as somebody who's moving to town — a new college professor or a new health care provider at Hays Medical Center — and you go out looking for homes, and you have virtually nothing to choose from,” Williams said. “That’s a problem.

“And so that's why we're always talking about that from an economic development standpoint, because economic development, a huge part of that is workforce. And if there's no housing for a workforce, you've got some real challenges to deal with.”

Efforts are underway to increase the housing inventory, but Williams said no solution will be able to resolve the situation quickly.

“This is kind of a perfect storm of events, we dug ourselves a hole over the last 10 years by not bringing enough new inventory onto the market, not building enough new homes, not enough new apartments and that type of thing,” he said.

Continued growth in the county has also depleted the number of available homes, even as new homes were being built.

“I can tell you when you go from two years ago, over 100 homes for sale in the Hays MLS, to today with 12. … We have had some growth, and we're not keeping up with it.”

Moving into the future, Williams said, “this is a serious issue that we have to address.”

Along with the overall shortage, he said having inventory available can also ensure area residents are in the right home for their needs.

“We don't have appropriate housing for various lifestyles or stages of life,” Williams said. “Like seniors, they want all on one level and some things like that, if we don't have that they're gonna stay put in maybe that three, four or five-bedroom home that could be on the market and appeal to a family moving into town.”

Homes that would be prime “fixer-uppers” are also not being remodeled, as the inventory is so tight, they remain in their current states, he said.

“The problem is that the market is so tight, that people will rent anything,” Williams said. “So those homes that would traditionally go into (the Grow Hays housing rehabilitation program) are being rented out in most cases because they can and so the ability to find a rehab home has never been more challenging than it is right now.”

Lost Opportunities

As a growing number of people living in urban areas are looking to shift to more rural environments, Williams said Hays could be in a prime position to grow Ellis County with residents from the Kansas City and Denver metropolitan areas. But, without homes, Ellis County is losing a prime opportunity to secure the economic future of the area.

“We need to be better positioned to capture more of that because many of these are remote workers,” he said. “And remote workers have good jobs, they just choose not to live in the metro area. And so if we can capture a bigger share that then we're getting right now that's good for our community. We bring in people with good jobs.

“And it's almost like exporting products where we become an exporter of those services that they provide for those companies they work for, but they spend their money in Hays. They buy homes, they buy cars, they buy groceries and all of those types of things. And we need as many of those people as we can get.”

The turn

Despite the anticipated housing report showing the difficulties in the market in the last year, moving into 2022, Williams said there are a number of positive initiatives underway.

“(The) number of building permits that were issued for single-family homes in 2021 (was) not a record but higher than it has been in a long time," he said. 

He also touted the ongoing Heart of America housing development near 22nd and Wheatland in Hays.

“We've got 36 lots in phase one. We have 10 homes under construction as we speak, another eight will be started sometime in the next 30 to 60 days,” Williams said. “And I'm very confident there'll be 20 to 25 homes completed in that development by year-end. There's huge interest in the homes that are being constructed.”

Ellis Estates is expanding, he said, which will add 30 to 40 senior housing homes to the market.

“Still a ways away, but that's happening,” Williams said.

Home construction is also ongoing in the Tallgrass II and the Kingsgate second addition, he said.

“So, we are adding some things and there's some activity going on, just not at the pace we really need to be,” Williams said.

The 2021 housing report from Grow Hays is expected to be available by Feb. 15 and will be available to the public on the Grow Hays website and facebook page.

Cover image courtesy Pixabay