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Testimony on the Wichita New Communities initiative

From John Todd.

City of Wichita Mayor and Council Members
455 N. Main
Wichita, Kansas 67203

Subject: Testimony in Opposition to Funding for the current New Communities Initiative Area (tract known as 67214 Target Area) or New Urban Renewal Target Area.

Dear Mr. Mayor and City Council Members,

My name is John Todd. I am a Wichita area real estate broker and developer, and I am here to speak as a private citizen. I speak in opposition to the city’s $250,000 Funding proposal for the current New Communities Initiative Area, because I believe this program in reality, represents the resurrection of the failed government Urban Renewal housing programs of the 1960-70’s.

Several months ago I attended a public “kick-off” meeting for the New Communities Initiative program at the Hughes Metroplex Center (Wichita State University) presented by Mr. Richard Baron (McCormack Baron Salazar). Mr. Baron delivered a power point presentation touting his firm’s expertise in replacing failed government Urban Renewal “Public Housing” projects of the past like the one shown in the attachment market Exhibit “A”.

Please take a close look at Exhibit “A”. When these types of Government housing projects of the past as shown on Exhibit “A” were built, they no doubt were sold to the taxpaying citizens by well meaning local public officials who saw a future vision (emphasis added) as to how their communities could solve their city’s blight problems, and at the same time provide “affordable housing” for the economically challenged people in their communities, and that the “collective good” (emphasis added) to be gained by projects such as these were worth the sacrifice of the individual property owners who were forced out of their homes or businesses to make way for these projects through the local government’s use of its eminent domain power. I believe the picture of the Public Housing project shown in Exhibit “A” speaks for itself regarding the failure of government in it’s attempt to socially-manipulate peoples lives by believing they knew what was best for people and by then mandating this view. The economic and social costs of these projects both private and public I suspect were staggering.

Please take a close look at Exhibit “B” that is also attached that shows a modern day “Communities” (Urban Renewal?) project that I believe Mr. Baron’s company is developing in another city. The painted rendering of the project is beautiful, but how does a project of this nature fit in with the proposed New Communities Initiative Area known as the “67214 Target Area”? Here is my interpretation of the information that I gathered from Mr. Baron’s presentation at the Wichita State University meeting. Of course I would suggest the need for the City Council to verify this information for them selves before making a decision to endorse a project of this magnitude. I am of the opinion that projects of this nature involve a mixture of privately owned town homes with Section 8 rental subsidized units with a common area owned by some sort of non-profit organization with ties to city government and other groups, but safely outside the control of a policy making City Council. Financing of these types of projects relied heavily on (I suspect tax deductible) private gifts, and other government grants and subsidies (Or money which many groups view as “free money”.). I did not pick up on who paid and how much development fees or management fees would be, if any, or how much financial exposure the city might have since public money would be involved. Mr. Baron suggested that projects of this nature take considerable tract sizes and suggested that tract acquisition many times required the use of eminent domain.

Before you consider promoting any public housing project(s) for the New Communities Initiative Area tract known as the 67214 Target Area, please take time to consider the following.

Currently, there are approximately 41 homes listed in the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service as available for sale in the 67214 Target Area. Exhibit “C” shows pictures of four of those homes. All four homes exhibit pride of ownership signs, and with current financing options, could be purchased with estimated monthly payments ranging from around $250 to just over $500 per month with minimal buyer costs needed to close the transaction. I continually hear government and quasi-government housing connected staff people continually crying out about the need for “Affordable Housing”. Well folks, we have it!!! I hear about the need to clear “Blight”. Item #29 Repair or Removal of Dangerous & Unsafe Structures on today’s City Council Agenda lists several houses that are scheduled for upgrade or demolition some of which appear to be in the Target Area under discussion today. And, with the recent upgrade of the housing code, you have given city officials all the tools they need to deal with blight. The attached Exhibit “D” shows some of the new and newer homes in the 67214 Target Area. Perhaps the money spent upgrading the 21st Street Corridor and the new grocery store on 13th are beginning to pay off. And we absolutely don’t need for the people currently living in their “Affordable Housing” units in the Target Area worrying whether or not they are safe from the hand of eminent domain.

The 67214 Target Area represents opportunity. There are vacant treed lots all over the area. In the early 1990’s I was personally involved in the building and marketing of new “Affordable” homes on approximately 175 vacant “in-fill” lots in Park City. I believe that this privately driven economic activity represents part of what everyone recognizes today as the Park City success story.

I believe that people all across our great city want to participate in the American Dream of home ownership by owning their own home rather than ending up in their retirement years with a handful of rent receipts from a Section 8 program.

Sincerely,

John Todd

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