The city of Kechi and the developers of the vacant Rock Pointe subdivision are joining the growing list of suburban cities offering incentives for homebuilders and homebuyers.
The city spent $2.5 million extending utilities to the 99-lot subdivision northwest of K-254 and Rock Road. But for months there was a lack of interest from builders.
The City Council voted this month to offer builders a discount in city fees worth at least $4,800 for the first three houses.
Developer Len Marotte is offering $2,000 to homebuyers for those three houses. The builders are expected to offer a further $2,000 in extras free to homebuyers.
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Park City, Maize and Garden Plain have also announced incentives.
It may be working, said Angie George of Plaza Real Estate, which is marketing the property. Two builders have signed contracts to build, and the developers are in discussions with a third.
The marketing plan calls for homes in the $200,000 to $250,000 range. A new Wichita high school to be located at 53rd North and Rock Road, about a mile south, will make the development more attractive, she said.
It will be up to the council to decide whether to extend incentives beyond the three homes, said City Administrator Mark Tallman. He said that once there is activity on the site, the city hopes it will produce more interest from builders.
"Nobody wants to be the first one on a blank piece of ground," he said.
The council is anxious to push development because the city is at risk for half the cost of the annual bond payments if builders don't buy the land and take over the special assessments, Tallman said. And that doesn't include the lost tax revenue from the additional 99 homes.
The owners of the land are liable for the other half, but even that can get tricky if the owners don't pay. They have three years before the land is confiscated for taxes.
Marotte said the development is in a good location, close to a highway and schools, plus has rolling terrain and ponds.
It has been hurt because banks have largely quit lending to builders to build speculative homes.
The economy does have a role, he said, but it's really not that big an impact for these houses.
"These are usually second or third homes for these buyers," Marotte said. "And the first-time homebuyer market is very active, which gives some ability for those longer-term owners to sell and move up."