MANHATTAN (KSNT) – The Manhattan City Commission met Tuesday night to hear a presentation which focused on the current housing market situation in the city.

The presentation was given by Development Strategies and is part of a larger project by the City of Manhattan to focus on the challenge of ensuring the availability of housing that is suitable to the growing community. A 2019 survey cited by one of the presenters showed housing attainability and rental housing condition were key areas of concern for Manhattan residents. As the presenters on Tuesday pointed out, there are many difficulties standing in the way of average citizens being able to afford adequate housing in Manhattan.

“We’re not recommending anything yet, we’re getting the information out there about the needs… current needs and future needs, where we see demand going and some of the implications for future land use and what potential target markets might be in the future,” Andy Tsister, a member of Development Strategies, said.

More and more people are looking to move in to the Manhattan area but are finding housing options difficult for several reasons. One point brought up was how expensive housing is for the city as the average citizen will need to earn a bare minimum of $17.50 per hour or $35,000 per year to afford a two-bedroom unit yet most entry-level jobs that require experience do not pay this amount.

While demand for housing in Manhattan continues to increase, the city has few options in regards to expansion. The city’s growth is stunted by the presence of Fort Riley, land owned by the Kansas Board of Regents and Kansas State University. The nearby Big Blue and Kansas Rivers also prevent easy expansion of the city for future housing.

Fifty-seven percent of Manhattan’s households rent out, part of the city’s nature as a college town. Many of these rental properties are considered to be in “substandard condition” while median rents remain relatively high. The continued decrease in student enrollment over the years at K-State has led to increased vacancy and decreases in the rents for the older rental housing stock.

A sharp rise in home prices in Manhattan, 16% in 2021 alone, has made it all the harder for people to afford a residency within city limits. Median sale prices rose from $117,000 to $199,000 since 2003 with prices increasing at a rate of 250% higher than the current rate of income growth. Manhattan is also having a hard time keeping young professionals in the city.

“Compared to many of its peers, other parts of the Midwest and beyond, Manhattan really is lagging a bit in terms of attracting and retaining that 25 to 34-year-old population,” Miriam Keller, with Development Strategies said.

All of these issues and more have come together to create a difficult situation for those seeking housing in Manhattan. The city commissioners are hoping to identify a solution with the help of Development Strategies later this year.

“I’m looking forward to more options on where we can invest and how best to utilize those funds,” City Commissioner Usha Reddi said. “But also, what are some federal programs that we can tap into? Because this is not just a Manhattan problem, this is a nation problem.”

The next time the city commissioners expect to hear from Development Strategies will be in May where they will talk about the options the city can take to resolve the housing situation.

To view the Housing Snapshot for the City of Manhattan that was presented on Tuesday night, click here. To see the Housing Markey Analysis presentation, go here. To watch the full discussion from Tuesday night on Facebook, click here.