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HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Independent developer has solution for western Kansas housing shortage


In Western Kansas, it’s not jobs that are in short order, it’s housing.  An investor is taking measures to remedy the housing shortage in Liberal without any form of government subsidies according to a recent article from the High Plains Daily Leader.

Jason Vansickle is a developer, statistician, and business owner from Wichita.  He spoke to community member recently at the Old Rock Island Depot.  He says he wants to purchase land in the area and build 100-200 new apartments.

According to his data analysis, the city of Liberal is in a good position.

“Liberal is in this great situation right now. It’s growing. It’s at 3 percent unemployment, which is incredible,” Vansickle says, “You’re even being proactive and looking ahead with the new school bond issue…. But you’re like a lot of communities where, as your jobs have grown, your housing hasn’t kept up. You have teachers coming for jobs, some skilled labor coming in and you’ll end up with some turnover because people will come to say, ‘I like being a teacher here, but I can’t find a decent place to live.’”

Vansickle “grew up seeing the incredible value of community, the importance of businesses doing important things for the community,” came to Liberal well-prepared.  He did huge amount of research on the town.  He also is personally prepared.  He’s majored in philosophy, has a master’s in sociology, and he’s a statistician and President of Wichita’s Old Town Association.  He’s also learned been hands-on with his development business, laying tile and sheetrock.

His motivation for taking on the project without government subsidies is partly because of the instability of the incentives.  When the government changes priorities, projects can go bankrupt.  His choice is also personal.  Vansickle has reservations about taking tax-payer dollars to help build profit for his business.

“I looked around, and I saw there are a lot of developers and contractors using government incentives,” he said, “And I just decided from this point on, I will not be a developer unless I can become smart enough to build real estate without using a single penny of government incentives.”

Vansickle says development in rural areas costs more, but he’s optimistic. 

“I believe in Liberal. I’ve got 120 communities where my model worked. Liberal’s in the Top 10 of those communities,” says Vansickle.

The developer says he hopes to begin the project as soon as possible, and it should be completed about 12 months after the start date.