By LESLIE EIKLEBERRY
The Community Housing Development Corporation of Central Kansas received an early Christmas present this afternoon in the form of a $50,000 gift from The Schmidt Foundation.
Ben Waters, the regional manager of Eagle Communications' radio, digital, and creative markets in Salina, Manhattan, and Junction City, presented the check on behalf of The Schmidt Foundation. In Salina, Eagle Communications owns 99KG, 94.5 Prime, KINA, and Salina Post.
Waters said the gift was being made to the Community Housing Development Corporation because of Eagle employees' belief and desire "to help improve the communities we live, work, and play in." Waters said the Community Housing Development Corporation was selected as the recipient of the gift to help alleviate some of the housing issues in Salina.
"Housing continues to be a barrier to get folks here and to help folks be able to move up in the next housing level if they so choose," said Eric Brown, president and CEO of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Community Housing Development Corporation of Central Kansas.
The Schmidt Foundation
Located in Hays, The Schmidt Foundation was established by former Eagle owner Bob Schmidt, and his wife, Pat.
Bob and Pat Schmidt were determined to contribute to the success and well-being of the communities they served. They believed the rising tide lifts all boats – if you give back to your community, it begins a chain reaction of good and creates a place where we can all grow and thrive.
Bob’s "Forward Ever" outlook, combined with Pat’s interest in community projects led to the formation of the Robert E. and Patricia A. Schmidt Foundation, now known simply as The Schmidt Foundation. Over the years, The Schmidt Foundation has built a brighter future for many in Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. With the "Forward Ever" attitude the board of trustees works to continue Bob and Pat’s vision of improving the quality of life in our communities.
What is the Community Housing Development Corporation?
"We are a not-for-profit agency here in Salina that serves an area around our region, in a sense. We've not looked outside of Salina too much as of yet, but we'd still like to do that," said Gary Hobbie, director of the Community Housing Development Corporation.
The Community Housing Development Corporation is recognized as a Community Housing Development Organization, or CHDO, by the State of Kansas through the Department of Commerce.
"The Salina CHDO was formed somewhere about 2007 and they were basically set up to help the Salina Housing Authority to obtain some houses, whether it be through auctions, estates, or whatever the case may be. That worked out for several years, then there was kind of a lull in the action until about 2011-2012," Hobbie said. "I was working for the City of Salina at that time and we tried to work on a variety of things through our community development area with the CHDO. Things just never did click very well."
Hobbie said that when he retired from the city in 2017, he began talks with the Community Housing Development Corporation board about what to do next with the CHDO.
"And the Housing Resources Corporation representatives and Department of Commerce came out and said 'Look, you guys really need to start doing something so we can continue on recognizing you as a local CHDO.' So that kind of prompted us to start looking for funding to purchase and remodel houses, rehab them, so that we could get low to moderate income families into the housing unit that would be suitable for them," Hobbie said.
After much discussion and research, the organization decided to focus on owner-occupied housing for low-moderate income families.
"The houses that we are looking at are going to be in the 60-120 percent of the median income for Saline County. So that gives us a pretty broad range of capabilities for housing," Hobbie said. "Basically, we have said that anything under $120,000 would be our target, preferably in the $50,000 to $100,000 price range when we're completed with remodeling."
The organization buys a house and then refurbishes it with the help of licensed contractors and a few volunteers, Hobbie explained.
According to Hobbie, the Community Housing Development Corporation tries to keep its costs per house as low as possible.
"What the CHDO invests in the property will depend on the needs of the house. So we've tried to make sure that the wiring is safe and up to code. We make sure the plumbing is also safe and up to code. We make the heating and air conditioning units as energy efficient as possible. Many times that means upgrading the furnace and air conditioner. And many times we put in siding, new windows, new kitchen cabinets, all the insulation we can get into the house, those type of things, and make it to the point where the new owner has little or no expenses to maintain that house for a five-year period," he said.
"We sell our houses at basically no profit to the organization. We cover our administrative expenses, and that's basically it," he added.
Initially, the Community Housing Development Corporation tried to find a lending institution that would lend the organization money to purchase and remodel the houses, but without a track record of receiving and repaying loans, the organization had little success.
Hobbie said that after eight or nine months, the organization finally found a benefactor who was willing to give it money for refurbishing houses that would be owner occupied. The money would be a revolving loan that could be used again and again to purchase additional houses and fix them up once previous houses that were refurbished had been sold.
"2019 was basically our start, because that March, we bought our first house. We paid cash for it with the money we had, and then we hired local contractors to come in and remodel the house," he said.
The Community Housing Development Corporation currently is working on its eighth house.
"We have No. 9 in the queue, ready for us to have the foundation work completed by the contractor, and when that's done, we hope by the first of the year we'll be able to go in and start doing some work on it and get it ready to go for another family," Hobbie said.
So far, the program has worked well.
"We've been quite successful so far. Our houses have sold in anywhere from 12 hours to 12 days basically," Hobbie said.
The gift from The Schmidt Foundation will enable the Community Housing Development Corporation to work on even more houses. It also will allow the organization to get the word out about its program to bank loan officers and realtors, he said.