Housing is currently a complicated and important issue in Salina.
As companies like Kubota, Schwan’s, and others move or expand manufacturing and business in the community, new workers and their families need housing. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult given the current economic climate and other factors.
Todd Welsh, the owner and broker of SalinaHomes.com, spoke about the current situation and how the industry is dealing with it during the board meeting of the Salina Community Economic Development Organization (EDO) on Thursday.
Welsh said he has been in the industry for 26 years and is passionate about the Salina community, especially the workforce and the affordable housing market here so that people can have a nice place to live.
He said that people in the area are quick to buy houses.
“If someone looks up our website, they’ll find that there are only 35 homes between zero and a million (dollars),” said Welsh. “That doesn’t mean real estate agents are starving, or houses don’t sell, or buyers don’t buy.”
He said the reason the low number of listings is because people buy as soon as houses come on the market, with three days being the average time a home spends in the market before it is sold.
“Things come up, they sell out very quickly (with) multiple offers,” said Welsh. “It’s very worrying and scary to me, even though you would think that, as a real estate agent, I would love for houses to do what they do. The truth is, we have a lot of disappointed people in every house that comes up.”
He said another problem is buyer fatigue as potential buyers send multiple offers using lenders and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans but are bought out by cash offers.
The market moves fast, and Welsh describes it as a standstill to be thrown into a hurricane in a short time. One thing this leads to is people renting houses in the area as houses are hard to find.
“If you arrive at our ward on a Saturday and want to buy a home for $ 150,000 to $ 200,000, I can’t show you anything,” Welsh said. “The only houses that are available are the ones that people currently live in here. When they come out we will call and there will be 15 screenings.”
The rental market is also difficult. Welsh said the people who are currently coming here with large companies are lucky because they are usually high-level employees like engineers or management who can afford rent between $ 1,100 and $ 1,500 a month.
“As for us, is when these people come into town and need a monthly rent of $ 650 to $ 700 or $ 800 and are hard to find,” Welsh said.
Another problem is the new home market. Welsh said there are currently four companies building multiple houses. That was only around 40 building permits for new houses in 2020.
It has also become more expensive to build as supplies are harder to come by and the cost of those supplies is increasing. Welsh said a crew had to stop working because there were no 2 by 12, 20 foot pieces of wood anywhere in town.
“A sheet of 7/16 (oriented strand board) a year ago was … $ 9.80,” Welsh said. “Today I paid $ 33 for the same sheet of OSB. We can’t do that anymore.”
He said the only reason home builders are buying at these higher prices is because interest rates have come down and the property market is strong right now.
Salina’s city manager, Mike Schrage, also attended the meeting and spoke about what Salina, the city government, saw in relation to the current housing situation. In 2016, a housing study was carried out on the current needs in the community, which Schrage says needs to be updated.
“We have already published some reports to the city commission, consistent with the 2016 study, that we have housing needs in a fairly wide range of housing products and prices,” said Schrage.
Other things the city is considering are property tax incentives to pay for infrastructure costs. This would allow for faster development of subdivisions.
Schrage said while economic development is unique in the Salina community, housing needs are not unique as other cities in the area are facing the same problems, which is fueling competition for subcontractors like Framer. He said the possibility of larger projects going on at the same time might encourage these groups to come here, but that is not a guarantee.
“We will only know when it is published whether it would even cover the demand,” said Schrage.
Housing problems in the city continue and organizations like the Salina EDO, Salina Chamber of Commerce and Salina City Commission will continue to debate this year and possibly beyond as more businesses and workers may come to the community.