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Rural Champions | Housing

Housing is common struggle for many communities and counties in Kansas. There were several things to learn within these projects in regard to housing — many hurdles and opportunities.

Cities of Harper & Anthony

Project Background

Cities in Harper County, including Harper and Anthony, collaborated on various projects over a two-year period to sustain the rural Kansas economy in their county, encountering challenges such as a shortage of housing options. Despite difficulties in addressing specific needs like vacant properties and affordable housing, the Rural Champion Project Implementation Grant will support housing incentive programs in both cities, with mini grants identified as a means to make progress while larger developments are pursued, aiming to overcome capacity barriers like the absence of representation from realtors and builders in southcentral Kansas.

Steps to Success

The Harper County Growth Initiative aimed to identify and prioritize housing issues. Success, primarily in the quality of affordable housing, will be measured through collaboration with local partners. The 27-member community housing committee, representing schools, hospitals, businesses and stakeholders, worked collaboratively to address common issues, leveraging diversity and passion. They identified unique strengths and weaknesses, prioritizing findings for joint planning among the cities.


Solutions for housing challenges in Harper County include advocating for a community housing specialist to coordinate resources and stay updated on programs. Education is crucial for residents and financial institutions, requiring targeted outreach. Establishing incentive programs, land banks, and strengthening partnerships with businesses and the community foundation are priorities. Creative budgeting is essential, given annual municipal budget cycles in rural areas.

Resources Identified

Harper and Anthony received support from local entities and businesses, including the Rural Champion Grant, Harper County Community Foundation and the Harper County Appraiser’s Office, to address housing challenges. The Rural Champion Project Implementation Grant will fund housing incentives, with town hall meetings and the Housing Assessment Tool (HAT) facilitating community engagement and data gathering, while state and federal resources provided valuable information for the process.

Meet the Rural Champion

Harper County Champion – Cheryl Adelhardt

For two years now, the cities of Anthony, Attica and Harper, Harper County and local businesses have joined forces to work on multiple project efforts to sustain the rural Kansas economy in Harper County. The realization that most of our economic efforts were met with a massive roadblock in the lack of available housing was quickly realized and multi-jurisdictional efforts began working together to try to solve the problem. Tackling the multifaceted needs of our housing inventory (vacant properties, dilapidation, affordable housing, rental vs. owner-occupied, lack of middle-income housing, etc.) has proven difficult due to the staff time necessary to accomplish the following objectives: 1) identifying the volume of need in each category; 2) researching the many options and programs that are available to help address them: RHID, MIH, Landbanks, CDBG, and so much more, 3) matching the appropriate resource to its corresponding need category, 4) developing a calculated and well thought out strategic approach to resolving our housing crisis.

The creation of this playbook for Harper County would be a game changer for us but we have had a very difficult time keeping the project moving due to lack of available staffing. We have formed partnerships with businesses and all the governmental jurisdictions in Harper County and ALL agree and are on board that this housing crisis is an issue we can all rally behind. The dedicated Rural Champion will help with this massive undertaking of this united effort to really move the needle forward.

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Linn County

Project Background

Linn County, facing a pressing need for quality, affordable housing, initiated a comprehensive plan guided by a Rural Champion. Despite challenges, including unsuccessful applications for housing programs, the county recognized the urgency to address the longstanding issue with incentives and assessments that hadn’t been implemented in over 15 years.

Steps to Success

Linn County’s success in improving housing, as outlined in their new Comprehensive Plan, involves a vision focused on community pride restoration through efforts like city revitalization, addressing dilapidated homes and building on vacant land. Key steps include forming a diverse Housing Committee, establishing relationships with local, regional and state entities, such as ORP, KDOC, KHRC and SEKRPC, and engaging citizens through a housing survey.


To make progress, initial solutions involved exploring options like Neighborhood Revitalization, Community Development Block Grants and Moderate-Income Housing (MIH). A housing committee successfully presented and collaborated on a Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, while the Housing Assessment Tool identified three countywide incentive plans:

  • Demolition Assistance,
  • Long-Term Vacancy
  • Paint Linn County

Engaging with the Housing Interagency Advisory Committee and emphasizing community involvement ensures the success of the plans, with the Housing Assessment Tool becoming a required document for the MIH Grant, guiding targeted areas and priorities.

Resources Identified

The project secured funding from ARPA funds, MIH grants and county budgets, with non-financial resources like employee time and office space. Key partners include city and county leaders, businesses, foundations, school districts and others. Funding options range from local to state sources.

Success hinges on utilizing the Housing Assessment Tool, obtaining leadership support, forming dedicated committees, providing education and staying focused on goals.

Meet the Rural Champion

Linn County Champion – Darcy Wilson

The new Comprehensive Plan was adopted by our Board of County Commissioners on August 29, 2022. While several goals were identified in the Plan, the one that consistently rises to the top is improving housing throughout the county. Linn County, like many small communities across the state, has suffered a lack of quality, affordable housing in recent years. There are seven small cities located in Linn County. Housing stock throughout Linn County is aging. The cities have made concerted efforts recently to condemn and remove blighted homes, but there have been very few homes built to replace the ones that have been torn down. In a county as small as we are, employees wear many hats and often don’t have the time needed to devote themselves to a single, long term project.

A Rural Champion in Linn County will serve as a Housing Champion. Being able to hire a Housing Champion, which would not be a possibility without the Rural Champions grant, opens Linn County to a world of resources and progress that we would otherwise not be able to access. Our Housing Champion will work with all seven cities to help develop plans for remodeling or removing blighted homes, use the state housing assessment to apply for funding, and work with developers to bring new housing to our communities.

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Key Resources

Partner Organizations

At times resources needed to make a project successful were not always financial. It’s important to be knowledgeable of the primary resources, but also look beyond the obvious funders and think about what else is needed to carry out a similar project.

Every community is different, but there are commonalities with who should be involved in housing projects.  Local partner & organizations to include, but not limited to, in the HAT process:

  1. City leadership 
  2. County leadership  
  3. County appraiser  
  4. Businesses 
  5. Community Foundations 
  6. Telecommunications entity 
  7. School districts 
  8. Chambers of Commerce 
  9. Economic/Community Development organizations  
  10. K-State Research & Extension  
  11. Lenders 
  12. Contractor/Builders  
  13. Realtors 
  14. Regional planning commission  
Funding Resources & Grants

Funding for projects is always a significant consideration for development as well as success. These are some options to consider for seeking funds.


  1. Cities 
  2. Counties 
  3. Community Foundations 
  4. Telecommunications entity   


  1. Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC) 
  2. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  3. Federal Loan Home Bank (FHLB) 
  4. USDA-Rural Development 
  5. Kansas Commerce housing program guide – Information on these and many more options can be found in this guide
Best Practices

There are always learning curves for every type of project. Here are some overarching best practices tips to take into consideration when launching a similar project.  

  1. Best place to start is with the Housing Assessment Tool (HAT). This website has a tremendous amount of support information and resources.  
  2. Make sure to have buy-in from leadership 
  3. Build a strong housing committee that is committed to being engaged 
  4. Education for all, to keep the “coffee shop” conversations more as “reality” conversation 
  5. Don’t get frustrated when you realize steps are done backwards or started in the middle 
  6. Stay focused on the goal and remember that the hard work is worth it 
Project Examples

Examples of programs and resources that were used and created as part of these projects

Funding programs developed

Survey examples