Providing enough sewers, water lines and streets to support new developments is the biggest challenge to Dodge City's and Ford County's efforts to ensure an adequate housing supply, according to a new report on the area's housing needs.


    Providing enough sewers, water lines and streets to support new developments is the biggest challenge to Dodge City's and Ford County's efforts to ensure an adequate housing supply, according to a new report on the area's housing needs.
    "We've got to get this solved," said Martin Shukert, principal with the Omaha, Neb.-based company RDG Planning and Design. "This is absolutely the most critical issue."
    RDG recently examined the city's and county's housing needs, looking at current and future demand, ways to address that need and problems and solutions. Shukert shared that information with city and county leaders Thursday night at the Mariah Hills Club House.
    The city's population has increased by about 2 percent a year since the 1970s, and the county's overall population depends on the city's growth, according to the report. The county's population outside Dodge City did rise during the 1990s, reaching an estimated 7,600 people in 2005.
    But Shukert said the supply of new housing is not keeping up with the demand. He said the city is producing an average of 55 new housing units each year, but it needs about 180 a year.
    "When we take this demand, project it over until 2020, we have a total need over that period — from now until the end of the next decade — for about 21, 22 hundred units," he said.
    Shukert said the demand for new housing in rural Ford County is much lower — only about 248 units by 2020.
    Shukert identified several assets working in the city's and county's favor, including a large employment base, the prospect of a casino, a supply of affordable homes and stable housing values.
    But he also said the city and county face several obstacles, including the problem of financing public improvements to support new housing developments.
    Another critical problem was a shortage of land for new housing projects.
    "At a time when we have a very strong continuing demand for housing, we have a very rapidly diminishing supply of land to build that housing on," Shukert said. "This is a critical, critical problem."
    But he also offered several possible steps toward solving those problems, starting with a plan identifying areas of growth and ways to develop additional sewers, water lines and streets.
    Some other solutions:
    • A community partnership that can address regional housing opportunities,              
    • A downtown revitalization program that includes housing as part of the mix.
    • Ways to use available land and infrastructure for new housing developments.
    After the meeting, Dodge City Mayor Kent Smoll said the prospect of tackling the housing challenge was both scary and exciting.
    "There's opportunities to maybe get ahead of this," he said. "It's going to take time."
   
Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.