DODGE CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Quality, affordable housing is vital for the growth and development of many rural communities. While several towns and cities welcome a growing population, many are also working to keep up with the demand for housing. 

Every three years, Dodge City conducts a community-wide housing assessment. It allows officials to see the need for housing in the community at each income level. It also estimates the future demand.

Over the past seven years, nearly 800 houses have been built in Dodge City. Another 200 are currently under construction.

But even with the new builds, the city’s housing assessment shows construction throughout the next five years is still 1600 houses behind.

“One of the biggest challenges is if you don’t have housing for your workers, your businesses can’t grow,” said Joann Knight, Executive Director Dodge City-Ford County Development Corporation.

Officials say a growing workforce and new job developments have driven demand.

“There’s not one particular thing that is bringing them in other than so many of our businesses expanding,” said Knight.

While others point out, factors such as construction costs and lower-income levels create greater challenges for those in remote areas of the state.

“Historically rural communities have been underserved, and it’s difficult to provide affordable housing in rural communities,” said Ryan Vincent, Executive Director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation. “Rural communities really face a number of challenges. You can take the same development, build it in Johnson County and then build it in any small community in rural Kansas, and that same development can cost 20, 30, 40% higher.”

For many, the increasing need is a concern.

“It’s just essential for us to identify what needs are throughout the state,” he said.

But also, hope, for a brighter future as it brings, new business, new investment, and signs of growth.

“I hope that we always have a need because we’re always growing,” she said.

In Dodge City, many programs have been started to help push progress on the housing shortages. Throughout 2021, the entire state will undergo a housing assessment to better understand the need in all communities. 

The assessment will cover all corners of the state, but a major focus will be on rural areas. It will be the first comprehensive statewide housing assessment in nearly three decades. The large time gap has led to a shortage of data and existing resources on projected needs.

“We know that there’s a real need for affordable, quality, safe, accessible housing throughout the state at all times. It’s important to get real data so that we can meet real needs throughout the state, particularly in rural areas right now that just have those difficult to develop housing areas,” he said.

The study will be carried out by RDG Planning & Design out of Omaha.

The company will look at numerous elements like rental ranges, population, and regional affordability.

Goals and strategic initiatives to guide the state’s future housing development efforts will also be a major priority.

RDG has previously worked with several communities across the state from including Dodge City as well.

In Dodge City, the firm was able to assist in creating some of the initial Kansas Rural Housing Incentive Districts.

The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation as well as the Office of Rural Prosperity selected RDG and will manage the project throughout its entirety. The assessment is expected to run throughout the year, with a final analysis projected for December of 2021.

“Home is always a place for healthy families, for healthy neighborhoods, for healthy communities, and we recognize that. It’s important that we remind everyone how important home is. While there are never enough resources, we want to make sure the resources we have are spent well and reaching as many people in Kansas that we can,” he said.