Prairie Village approves changes to expand eligibility for exterior improvement grant project, but must still grapple with funding question

Exterior_Grant

A popular program designed to help homeowners refresh aging structures in Prairie Village is getting a few tweaks that will make it available to more property owners. But the Prairie Village city council must still grapple with a controversial funding proposal for the program.

Launched in 2008, Prairie Village’s exterior grant program provides a reimbursement of 20 percent of the cost for approved exterior home improvement projects between $5,000 and $12,500. Since its inception, the city has awarded reimbursements of $350,199 on projects totaling $2,353,583 in investment. Supporters of the program on the city council say it has achieved its goal of incentivizing homeowners to keep their properties in good shape, helping keep property values across the community high. (Here’s the city’s overview page on the program).

But a council subcommittee began looking at tweaks that could improve the program earlier this year in response to concerns that the program requirements excluded pockets of other areas of the city that could benefit from attention. On Monday, based on the committee’s recommendations, the city council unanimously voted to amend the program guidelines to:

  • Change the eligibility requirements from the current system, where a home must be located within a previously defined geographic area, to all homes in Prairie Village that have a county appraisal value of $175,000 or below. This change addresses concerns from some member of the council that city funds were only available to benefit people who lived in certain parts of the city. This change will expand the number of program-eligible homes from the current 3,398 to 3,769.
  • Change the minimum project amount eligible for reimbursement from $5,000 to $2,500. This change came in response to concerns that many of the projects that should be undertaken to address common city code violations — cleaning up peeling paint or replacing rotting shutters — wouldn’t cost enough to make them eligible.

While the council widely supported those changes, they postponed discussion of an additional proposal that would have shifted the funding burden for the program from the city’s economic development fund — which contributes approximately $50,000 to the grants every year — to an increased tax on rental property owners. The subcommittee had floated the idea of increasing the annual rental property fee from $77 to $300, a hike of nearly 400 percent.

That proposal drew criticism from Prairie Village rental property owners, and the council decided to postpone the funding discussion to a later date.