Wyandotte County needs a comprehensive plan that speaks to quality new housing that will attract those drawn here because of the 4,000 new jobs coming to Village West at the Cerner office complex.
I recently had lunch with Rusty Roberts, a builder-developer who owns the Reece and Nichols-Roberts real estate agency. He strongly suggested that such a plan is needed to determine why Wyandotte County is not attracting Cerner employees when it comes to resale or new home sales. He said the Cerner employees seeking homes often choose neighboring counties where taxes are often as much as 20 percent lower than Wyandotte County.
There may be other reasons that Cerner employees are not choosing Wyandotte County as a place to live, Roberts said. An objective study could follow up with those who choose to live elsewhere and detail the reasons for their choices.
The Unified Government should fund such a study. It isn’t that the UG and its Board of Public Utilities haven’t helped builders. Their waiving of builder fees provides incentives. But I would suggest that there are other reasons including the need for an effective marketing program that overcomes objections.
Builders tend to be independent by nature; the fact there are several builders in the Kansas City market has kept housing prices relatively low when you look at the national picture. But that very independence often makes it difficult for builders to influence public policy. Public officials look for those who speak in a unified manner.
I am encouraged with two market-rate apartment developments under construction and at least three others that are being proposed. This has been a long time in coming but will be a welcome feeder for single-family development. The 21 subdivisions in the Piper community that have adequate infrastructure are also encouraging.
Another positive sign is the single-family permits issued during 2013—82 as of the end of May. That compares to only 108 for all of 2012. However, looking at the history of single-family permits, I note that in 2005 that number was nearly 500. Or, I go back to the mid-1950s and Wyandotte County had more than 1,000 new homes annually.
A comprehensive plan that assesses the current housing opportunities and ways of attracting the market potential is needed.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.