With a 7-0 vote, the Wichita City Council passed a new two-year program that aims to improve the city's housing stock in the core area of Wichita. In the 9 areas the city has chosen, they will waive any building permit fees for residential work, either renovations or building a brand-new home.

Mayor Brandon Whipple says the areas they picked are places that are historically under invested in. "What we're doing is targeting some of the poorest areas, some of the least advantaged areas, and trying to entice folks to not only build on those areas, we have a lot of empty lots, but also to pull permits because we're waiving those permit fees for improvements. The goal overall is to create vibrant communities, within our community."

Any commercial projects, like a multifamily apartment complex, can get a waiver up to $10,000 for permits. The program also reimburses people for landfill fees if they have items they need to dump.

The city says it has collected over $250,000 of fees from these areas over the last three years. Councilman Brandon Johnson, whose district covers some of the targeted areas, says this is really about relief for the homeowners. "I've heard about the cost of renovating homes where landlords as well as homeowners, and it's just an exorbitant cost and everything's going up right now."

The idea from the city's perspective is simple, by waiving these fees, leaders hope people will use that money to put back into their homes, improving property values, hopefully opening up more current homes to rent or making it easier for new housing to be built. “We need many more affordable units, but we just need housing in general. This helps take care of the stock that we have, hopefully, build on some of those open lots and again, with saving folks’ money on doing that. Hopefully we see a shot in the arm to really help them,” said Johnson. 

The pilot program will last for two years and get started on October 3.

The areas in red are the selected neighborhoods that will have fees waived