Leaders say Topeka needs more affordable housing

In this Sept. 24, 2007 file photo, a "for rent" sign is posted outside a home in Denver. U.S. home rental prices rose at a slower pace in October, a possible sign that apartment costs are testing the upper reaches of renters’ incomes. Real estate data firm Zillow said Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 that median rents increased a seasonally adjusted 4.5 percent from a year ago. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka Housing Authority says the city will need 6,500 more properties in the next 20 years, for families making between $25,000 and $75,000 per year.

Trey George is the executive director of THA, Inc. and works with the non-profit side of the Topeka Housing Authority. He spoke during the Downtown Topeka Rotary weekly meeting Thursday. George says quality, affordable housing is key to the expansion of Topeka.

“To increase the businesses that come to Topeka, the individuals that live in Topeka, in order to do that you’re going to need more and more housing available,” said George. “If you’re building new developments obviously those are dollars that are going back in to the community. Also as individuals are just starting a job, it gives them an affordable place to live while they’re increasing their earnings for the future.”

During his presentation, George pointed out that more than a third of Topeka households and rental properties with a median rent of $800.

The presentation eventually veered towards Section 8 housing, which George says many people don’t understand. More than 1,300 households in Shawnee County rely on Section 8 assistance. This means that a portion of their rent is paid by the government.

During the meeting, Topeka Council Woman Karen Hiller and Chris Palmer, a landlord with Cornerstone of Topeka, stood up for people who receive Section 8 assistance.

“It’s not a section of the population that are the great unwashed. These are your neighbors and friends,” said Palmer.

Palmer accepts Section 8 renters at his rental properties. He wishes more people would look past the stigma associated with the program and see the good it does in the community.

“We’re paid, electronically, every month like clockwork that portion and then the tenant is responsible for their portion. It’s actually very easy,” said Palmer.

George says more than 1,200 households are on a waiting list for Section 8 Assistance in Shawnee County. While they could always use more landlords, he says the wait list is largely due to lack of funding.



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