The USD 457 Board of Education was given a report by city of Garden City staff to articulate how the community is fighting an ongoing housing shortage.

The report was similar to one presented to the Finney County Commission in late February, and the gist of the report is that Garden City is using Rural Housing Incentive Districts with limited success to create new housing developments.

USD 457 Superintendent Dr. Steve Karlin thanked City Manager Matt Allen for the city’s work on the issue, noting that affordable housing is a crucial component for teacher retention and recruitment.

Allen said the school district was instrumental in the decision among the county’s four taxing entities to approve the use of the RHID program that has been used since 2012 to create 219 new housing units.

“Make no mistake,” Allen said, “the RHID tool is the key to unlock development for this community, period. And I firmly believe that it wouldn’t have occurred and still wouldn’t be occurring without the use of that tool.”

Melissa Dougherty-O’Hara, a planner with Garden City’s Neighborhood and Development Services department, presented alongside Allen. She drew information from the Community Housing Assessment Study presented to the county commission in late February.

The report categorizes the housing market in Garden City three ways: affordable low market homes valued between $60,000 and $100,000, moderate market homes valued between $101,000 and $200,000; and high market homes valued at more than $200,000. Dougherty-O’Hara noted that contractors would not be able to develop new homes that meet the lowest market range and remain cost effective.

Even with planned RHIDs, Garden City still doesn’t come close to meeting the projected market need by 2025, with an estimated shortfall of about 600 units. The RHID program is doing little to address moderate market housing needs and affordable low market housing and rental needs.

There are currently 47 moderate market units planned within one RHID area, and if another RHID development is completed as planned, there will be an excess of 182 high market units available.

Daughterty-O’Hara said that flooding the market with high market homes would drive housing prices down overall.

She noted that while there is “a lot of existing housing,” most of it is occupied, and some of it isn’t. She said 5 percent of Garden City’s housing is abandoned, and getting those homes back on the market would generate a “flood of housing options” in the low and moderate market levels.

With more homes, city officials are hopeful that people will remain in the city but move up to a more expensive home to free up availability in the lower markets.

School board member Jean Clifford said she thinks it’s a great idea, “but I don’t see it happening,” she said.

“We have a lot of people who live in mobile homes and really substandard housing,” she said. “It just doesn’t speak well for Garden City to have that.”


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