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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Senate redefines 'rural'

  •      The news that the Senate had passed a farm bill last week came with an extra plus for Dodge City officials.  The bill contains an amendment to help communities across the nation that are not currently eligible for various USDA funding programs because the definition of "rural" excludes towns with populations larger than 20,000.


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  •      The news that the Senate had passed a farm bill last week came with an extra plus for Dodge City officials. The bill contains an amendment to help communities across the nation that are not currently eligible for various USDA funding programs because the definition of "rural" excludes towns with populations larger than 20,000.
         "USDA regulations remove a town when their second census tops 20,000," Cherise Tieben, assistant city manager said in an interview Monday.
         Dodge City has been ineligible for USDA rural housing programs for several years.
         "It's really an incentive for people to build outside the city limits, which creates problems when we have to extend utilities to those areas," Tieben said.
         The new bill will allow cities with populations up to 35,000 to participate in USDA programs.
         The Southwest Kansas Coalition, which includes Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal, sought an amendment to certain sections of USDA regulations. The amendment passed in the Senate exceeds their request, allowing developers and home builders in towns with populations under 35,000 to apply so long as they are at least 100 miles from the nearest metropolitan area.
         The coalition worked closely with Senator Pat Roberts in the effort.
         Sen. Roberts sent the following comments to the Daily Globe Monday:
         "I am pleased to work on behalf of the folks in Rural Kansas to help provide more affordable housing in areas that need it most. Such an effort is imperative in allowing Western Kansas to grow and thrive.  While we have more work to do, this is a great start to improving the life for folks in Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal and Hays."
         For procedural reasons the definition change had to go to the Banking committee, where Senator Jerry Moran is a member, and was able to help move the bill toward passage.
         The next step for the legislation is passage by the House of Representatives, where Rep. Tim Huelskamp will represent the area's interests.
         The most important component of the change is likely to be the loan guarantee program.
         "This will help young couples who are looking for a home loan," Tieben said.
         Funds can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage facilities.
         In most cases, the application process proceeds through the applicant's bank.
         "This change will not require any new appropriations; it just allows towns our size to compete," Tieben said.
         Even though the definition change will initially apply to rural housing programs, it could potentially have ramifications in other areas.
         "We were very excited to learn what Senator Roberts has accomplished by passing this legislation through the Farm Bill," said Ken Strobel, city manager, in a press release. "With the assistance of these programs, our community has more tools to meet the housing demands resulting from the strong economies in our communities. While the Farm Bill still has many steps before it becomes law, it is important for Dodge City and Ford County residents to know that this amendment goes a long way in improving rural cities and towns across the state."
    Page 2 of 2 - Impact
         Although it's impossible to predict the economic impact this legislation will have on Dodge City and others towns, records from comparable towns indicate that it could be significant.
         Hays, in Ellis County, reported over $ 13 million is rural housing loans in 2009 and 2010 and over $ 8 million in 2011.
     
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