GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Garden City is closer to having more housing available for residents. On Wednesday, crews broke ground on Phase I of Hunters Glen.

“Finney County has a housing shortage of about 4,000 housing units,” Lona DuVall, president and CEO of Finney County Economic Development Corporation, said. “Unfortunately, we also have 3,000 open positions in the community, but we’re at full employment. We have more folks working in Garden City than ever before.”

She said fewer than 30 people are on unemployment benefits in Finney County, and fewer than 300 people identify as looking for work.

“The only way we’re going to meet the demands for our economy is relocate some workers to our community to fill those positions,” DuVall said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and USDA Regional Director Karissa Stiers took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the housing development, near the intersection of North Third Street and Leawood Avenue, just north of Valley View Cemetery.

The project’s first phase will create 86 housing units at a total development cost of more than $19 million. Phase II is in final application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It would add another 106 units and a total development cost of $22 million. Phase III will be submitted for preliminary application to USDA in the fall.

Greater Garden City said Phase I is funded through a USDA loan and grant with Bonneville and Horizon Bank financing. Phase I will provide affordable housing options for farmworkers as broadly defined by USDA.

“At full development, you know we’re talking around 200 total units that would be available for, again, for agricultural workers within the community,” DuVall said.

She said USDA has different funding programs for agricultural workers. The USDA program they’re using does not limit the income of those who live in the units. Instead, it controls the costs so that the residents’ total rent and utilities stay within a certain percentage of their total income.

“It’s a much better opportunity for us,” DuVall said. “Our median income continues to rise significantly in Finney County, so any income-qualified projects don’t tend to work very well for us. But projects like this that allow the worker to make as much as the market will pay and still qualify for those living arrangements makes it very useful for our community.”

She said the project is multi-family and includes duplexes and townhomes. Builders hope to have the first phase done in the next year, but it will be dependent on the supply chain and the labor force.

“We’re very excited to be breaking ground at Hunters Glen,” DuVall said. “This project will help to fill some of our workforce housing needs. We appreciate Michael Snodgrass and his team’s dedication to partnering with Garden City and Finney County to create high-quality rental housing.”

Snodgrass is the owner of Oikos Development Corporation, the project developer.

“We’ve got some pretty big goals for housing in Finney County right now,” DuVall said. “The city commission, Garden City Commission, has adopted a goal of 4,000 units by 2030, which is pretty huge, and 2030’s not that far away.”

The Finney County Economic Development Corporation has an even bigger goal – 6,000 units.

“We believe we can do that, but it’s going to take all hands on deck and everybody working together,” DuVall said.