A group of Haviland residents, which includes Barclay College faculty and members of the city council, began construction on five new homes last week.
“We were at a Barclay College board [of trustees] retreat,” recalled Barclay’s Vice President of Finance and Haviland Homes LLC. board member Lee Anders. ”We brought up that we were bringing in people for jobs, but that they weren’t going to come here because there was no housing. The senator listened, called three weeks later and said ‘this is what we can do.’”
The project, which will bring five 2,400 square foot homes to Haviland, is being coordinated and personally financed by Kansas State Sen. Dick Kelsey through Haviland Homes LLC. Anders wanted to clarify, that it is a separate entity and not part of Barclay College or the City of Haviland.
Kelsey, a Goddard-area businessman representing Senate District 26 that includes most of western and southern Sedgwick County, is a member of the Barclay board of trustees.
“A lot of the reason [for the building] has been because the college has continued to grow and there is a shortage of housing. We didn’t have houses to show prospective faculty.
We wanted to help Haviland, we wanted to help the community and ultimately it will help the college as well,” added Anders. “When we bring people into town, the number one concern is ‘well, where will I live?’ They don’t want to live in Pratt because they want to be part of the Barclay community, but there are no realistic places to live. It’s big to have some options.”
As the Barclay administration was beginning discussions with Sen. Kelsey, the City of Haviland was trying to find a way to encourage home building in town.
According to Haviland City Councilman and Haviland Homes LLC board member Steve Larsh, the city had previously commissioned a five-person housing team to bring recommendations to the city council and Mayor Robert Ellis on what incentives they could provide to potential contractors.
Currently the city offers three years of free water to new homebuilders.
“The city was looking at our housing,” said Larsh. “At the same time, Sen. Kelsey called at random and said ’I want to build some houses in Haviland. Anyone can buy them. I’m going to have a meeting on this date, just find me some property.’”
Mayor Ellis, speaking by phone from Colorado on Monday, said that the city would do “whatever it takes” to encourage new construction in Haviland.
“Some people might be upset, but they don’t know how the process took place,” said Larsh. “It’s something that fell into Haviland lap, because of Sen. Kelsey. He did open it up to other people in town. He said he would sell it to anybody.”
A public meeting on the Barclay College campus on Feb. 3, attended by Sen. Kelsey brought “twelve to fifteen people” who were interested in the houses, with five being chosen as “qualified” buyers, according to Larsh. Larsh said that some people in attendance left following a presentation by Sen. Kelsey and that the five buyers chosen were selected based only on their ability to get financing.
All of the five chosen buyers have been approved for home loans and are proceeding with their purchase, which means the houses did not and will not reach the open market once built.
“They are already set up for their mortgage. Following the construction loan and once they are refinanced they will move right in and start paying for their own homes,” said Larsh. “There are no vacant homes now because of this.”
Both Larsh and Anders say that the final projected costs of the homes are estimated at $95,000 to $100,000, with some additional cost increases coming from custom requested by individual homeowners.
Haviland Homes LLC., acting as the general contractor is not charging the normal 10-15 percent contractors fee.
“Nobody’s making any money,” said Sen. Kelsey. “It’s like a habitat for humanity project really. I’m not making one dime. Most of my people are working without profit and at cost.”
Sen. Kelsey and representatives from Haviland Homes LLC. say that construction costs have been reduced because they have found competitive and often “at cost” materials and labor due in large part to suppliers and builders connected to the senator.
“They want to help out, donate labor,” said Councilman Larsh. “That helps the price come way down. Maybe [there would be more houses built] if a builder would come into the county and build homes, and not make any money. That’s what we’re doing.”
Larsh said some of the buyers would be completing the homes themselves, doing interior painting, trim and finishing. He also addressed questions about using out-of-county labor and the purchasing of construction materials from outside of Kiowa County.
“[Sen. Kelsey] called suppliers in Kiowa County and he could not get these homes built [at this price point] by using suppliers in county,” said Larsh. “He had to go outside of the county to get the lowest prices.”
“We are trying to make affordable housing and at least three of the families moving in couldn’t have afford to move in if we had used strictly local suppliers,” added Anders. “The costs would have been too high. It might have added as much as $20,000 to the overall cost.”
Sen. Kelsey also assisted the approved home buyers — three of whom work for Barclay, one who is a former Barclay employee and one couple who are both Barclay alumni — with mortgages from out-of-county banks.
Anders said they had met with at least one local bank about financing. “We sat in here with people from a local bank. They were given an opportunity to be involved in any level they wanted to be involved at and they declined. They weren’t opposed to it, but I think they mostly work with agriculture. [This type of project] is not their niche,” he said.
Anders also praised the help from Sen. Kelsey to assist with home loans as two of the families are first time homebuyers, and may have had trouble financing without the senators help.
The city will absorb the cost of bring water, sewer and electric utilities to four of the homes being built on undeveloped plots of land to the north of city center. The city will also pay to clear the entryway for the homes and the property.
The lots, estimated at one acre, will be annexed into city limits.
Mayor Ellis said he felt the costs were a good investment, noting that the homes and lots will add to the city’s valuation and tax base.
When asked if the city would offer the same utilities-for-annexation deal to future builders, Ellis said, “We’d have to get approval from the council, but I think they would go for it.”
Representatives from Haviland Homes LLC. say that future projects are possible, but not probable at this point and that rental properties are unlikely.
“It is nice to have some movement,” said councilman Larsh. “It shows that we can get something done and get moving. Hopefully it motivates people. I hope this starts some excitement. I don’t know what the last big project here was, except that Barclay is growing and building new facilities. As a city councilman, I don’t want Barclay to have to do it all. I would like the city to look towards the future. To prove to everyone that Haviland is not going away.”