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Housing woes
Steps to lessen housing shortage needed
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According to the Kansas Association of Realtors, Kansas home sales rose by 7.2 percent in August 2013 compared to the same period last year. Sales totaled 3,469 units in August, up from 3,235 units in 2012. In comparison, sales on a national level rose by 13.2 percent for the month. 
Across the state, there were 15,205 active listings at the end of the month. Supply of new and existing homes on the market – which is determined by taking the number of active listings and dividing by the number of sales – represents 4.5 months.
The statewide average sale price last month was $176,350, compared to $163,883 in August 2012. This represents an increase of 7.6 percent. The statewide median sale price last month was $159,000, compared to $149,000 for the same period last year.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors reported the median home price in the Midwest rose by 10.0 percent to $166,100. The national median existing home price was $212,100, which is 14.7 percent above last year’s figure. The median price is the value for which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. 
On the surface, these numbers look good. They are a sign of a real estate market that is rebounding.
But, there is a dark side to the figures. Great Bend, like many rural communities its size, finds itself with a crippling shortage of homes for sale, particularly in the moderate price range.
The City of Great Bend had a survey prepared as part of its application for a Kansas Department of Commerce Rural Housing Incentive District. The study tells us that 57 percent of the owner-occupied houses in Great Bend were built more than 43 years ago and that in the past five and half years, only 22 new single family homes have been constructed.
It is recommended that a community see an increase of 1.7 percent each year in new houses. For Great Bend, that translates to 100 annually.
This aging and stagnated housing inventory, the survey notes, is only expected to worsen if action is not taken.
The Great Bend City Council correctly pegged this housing shortage as a major damper on economic development. It is right to seek the RHID status so developers can have the tax credits they need to build.
Coincidentally, the council discussed the study Monday only hours after local business leaders bent Sen. Jerry Moran’s ear while he toured Fuller Brush. Their key issue – finding qualified professionals, a search hamstringed by a lack or homes.
We can only hope that Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George sees fit to OK this effort to make things better.
Dale Hogg