Pittsburg starts program to create more affordable housing

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Home has never been more important than during this pandemic.

But with more than 80-thousand Kansans being unemployed in September, according to the Kansas Department of Labor, many can’t make rent and are at risk of losing their homes.

“Once the eviction ban is lifted, we expect to see what has been called the eviction cliff,” says Quentin Holmes, Director of Housing and Community Development for the City of Pittsburg.

According to data from The Aspen Institute, there are between 268 thousand and 357 thousand Kansas at risk of eviction.

Holmes says Pittsburg has more than 300 people in its Section Eight Rental Assitance program right now, showing the need for more affordable housing.

“We needed to find a way to attract new landlords to the program, and generally, when we go to do a housing inspection, we have a roughly 52 percent failure rate on that inspection,” explains Holmes. “And when that inspection fails, that prevents a tenant from moving in [because] the landlord will generally decline the repair. And therefore that tenant that was going to lease that unit now has to look for another unit.”

So the city has started an incentive program, to get more landlords interested in the program.

Using 30 thousand dollars in CARES Act funds, the city will provide a thousand dollars per unit to a landlord, to help them recoup their expense to repair after an inspection.

John Bartlow, a landlord who co-owns 15 rental houses in Pittsburg, thinks the program will help quite a bit.

He says they generally lease their houses to college students, but at the beginning of the semester they had to find a different way to do business. College students were unsure if the university would open for in-person classes, so they went down the Section Eight route.

“Maybe a piece of chipped paint, or maybe changing out a receptacle from three-prong back to two-prong. There are some little things that are required that are definitely time-consuming and also can consume some finances,” says Bartlow. “So I think this incentive is a really great thing.”

So Holmes hopes that they’ll be able to keep more people in their homes, by getting them into homes they can afford even when times are tough.

“As much as we can help soften that here in Pittsburg with being creative with different programs through funding that we’ve received, we’re gonna do that,” says Holmes.

To be eligible for the incentive, the landlord has to commit to the program for at least a full year. The unit they repair must also be leased to an approved tenant, and they have to allow that same tenant to move back into the unit after the repairs are made.

To learn more about getting involved, call (620) 232-1210.