ST. JOHN — Housing in small towns across Kansas is sometimes a difficult thing to come by. Families move out and houses are left vacant.
According to the U.S. Census, in Stafford County, the average age of a home is 90 years. Since 2000, the average number of houses built in Stafford County is 2.6 while the number of housing units lost is 13.9.
A combined effort between the Stafford County Economic Development and the Net Positive Studio at the Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning and Design, will create a small house somewhere in Stafford County, said Michael Gibson, associate professor of architecture who is the faculty lead and and licensed architect overseeing the work of the studio.
Gibson and 13 university students visited St. John earlier this month to meet with the industrial arts teacher at St. John-Hudson High School because they want to get the class involved with the project, said Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County economic development.
Stafford County EcoDevo has submitted grant applications for the project. Dunn said she won’t know until late in the fall and spring if the grants have been approved. EcoDevo will retain ownership of the and rent out the house. The house won’t have all the amenities and it may not be for everyone in all stages of life. The millennials don’t want to be tied down with all the “stuff” and want more disposable income.
“It will be interesting to see who applies,” Dunn said.
There have been subsidized housing projects available in the past but Stafford County has never taken part in a project. Stafford County doesn’t have a lot of used housing inventory. Not much housing was built in the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s.
It costs about $200,000 to put a house on a foundation in Stafford County and for many people, that is not affordable.
As for locations for the project, nothing has been set yet. Some people have indicated they would donate lots if EcoDevo has the means to develop them. The city took possession of some properties after a tax sale. Options are out there, including a possible house in Hudson that a community group in Hudson is trying to buy house that needs to be demolished.
The first semester will be dedicated to research and designing the house that will have about 1,150 square feet. The second semester, students will construct prefabricated parts that will be incorporated in the house.
This house will be a prototype but hopefully, it can be repeated by a contractor. It’s not a work of art but a house that is sensible and repeatable.
The house will probably have three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a dining room, living room, kitchen and outdoor space will be considered in the design too.
The goal of Net Positive Studio is to create affordable housing to strengthen and sustain communities.
Stafford County is losing housing units over time and they are not being replaced. Every year there is less and less housing available.
“If you want to a community to grow, you have to deal with the housing problem,” Gibson said.