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Stafford County acquires $150K in tax credits
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ST. JOHN — The last time Macksville developed a housing project was 1948. Stafford developed its last housing project in 1956.
Duplexes planned in Macksville and Stafford, with land already acquired by Stafford County Economic Development Inc. of St. John, will turn $150,000 in Kansas Community Service Tax Credits from the Kansas Department of Commerce into more than $214,000 of local housing investment.
Qualified donors who give $1,000 will receive a 70 percent (or $700) tax credit against their Kansas income tax liability. Donors also earn federal tax benefits if they itemize, which would again decrease their tax liability.
In the Stafford County tax sale, Stafford County EcoDevo acquired a lot in Macksville, and the Stafford City Council donated two lots. Nearby street and utility infrastructure is available, which lowers the cost of development. The vacant Stafford property will be returned into productive taxable property.
“Housing is one of our primary goals to address for Stafford County,” said Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County Economic Development director. “We met that news with joy and relief. Without the grant, we would not be moving forward. This will help us attract families who are already contributing to the local economy. We’re ready to get things moving.”
Stafford County EcoDevo will own the properties and work with a developer for duplexes featuring three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Dunn said several families in the county have chosen alternative solutions in their housing situations. She said young professional families have taken to temporarily living in homes that don’t suit their needs, or bunking with family in the search for suitable housing.  
“This will address pervasive challenges of the lack of rental housing for young families and young adults,” Dunn said. “It will be workforce moderate income housing. Things are ready to move to the next steps.”
Stafford EcoDevo has assembled resources to build a rental unit that is geared toward young professional families in need of a place to live — often their first step before investing in a home.
“With our design, these lots will hold duplex-style rental units, allowing more space for these ‘imports,’ and young professionals,” Dunn said. “Hopefully, progress will be seen by the end of this year, and after these lots are utilized, construction may start in other areas of Stafford County.”
Dunn’s next step is to develop a data-base for interested rental parties, which will be maintained by Stafford EcoDevo (620-549-3527). A donor list will be recorded to give interested parties an opportunity to invest in their own city and county.
“This will be a great county-wide community project,” she said.
A rental housing shortage in Stafford County was indicated through a housing assessment template provided by the Federal Home Loan Bank was completed.
While some houses are vacant, there was a lack of sufficient rental housing. The 2,067 houses in Stafford County have an average age of 83 years. Just 3 percent of the inventory has been built in the last 20 years, and over 80 percent of the housing inventory ranks in less than “good” condition according to the Stafford County appraiser.   
Thirty-five units in the county were designed as rental units for the general population — not retirement or HUD housing units.    
“Our rental vacancy rate is 5 percent, compared to 8 percent statewide, and 21 percent of our inventory is renter-occupied compared to 31 percent statewide,” Dunn said.
According to the Census, the average rent in Stafford County is $288 per month — which supports the concept that living in Stafford County is affordable, but the downside is that has served as a disincentive to new investment.  
The Kansas Department of Commerce had 28 nonprofit organizations share $4.13 million in tax credits under the Kansas Community Service Tax Credit Program. Since 1994, CSP has helped nonprofit organizations undertake major capital fund-raising drives for various projects.
“The nonprofit groups that are receiving CSP tax credits are doing valuable work in our state,” said Pat George, Kansas commerce secretary. “They provide critical services for the citizens and communities that rely upon their endeavors. It’s terrific that we’re able to support these organizations’ efforts to better the quality of life in Kansas.”
Projects eligible for tax credit awards include community service, crime prevention and health care.
Tax credit awards are distributed through a competitive application process. Based on the scope and cost of the proposed project, applicants may request up to $250,000 in tax credits. Applicant organizations in rural areas (less than 15,000 population) are eligible for a 70 percent tax credit. Applicant organizations in non-rural areas are eligible for a 50 percent tax credit.
The Kansas Community Service Program has given nonprofit organizations a way to improve their ability to undertake major capital fund-raising drives for various projects since 1994.