By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Westkan Apartments in south Liberal is a low income housing project overseen by USDA Rural Development.
“Our job is to provide housing to those who are on a fixed income and can not afford to rent a house on the open market,” said site manager Daniel Fosdick.
Each year, Westkan is given only so many rental assistance units, however.
“The problem we are having right now is that we are not receiving enough applicants to fill our apartments,” Daniel said. “If we do not use the rental assistance, then the government will take these RA units away and we will not get them back.”
Once this happens, Westkan will lose its ability to help those who need it.
“This is a use it or lose it proposition that not only affects us, but it affects the entire community,” Daniel said.
He added the assistance is paid for by the government, so there is no cost or fee to the tenants.
“But if it doesn’t get used up, it’ll go away,” he said. “We’ll lose the ability to help people in this area.”
Daniel’s wife, Heather, also a site manager at the complex, said Westkan has been under rental assistance since its early days in the mid-1980s.
“The loan was through USDA Rural
Development, but the government has said they’re not giving out any more rental assistance to any more people nationwide,” she said. “We used to have 100 percent, which means we had 110 rental assistants, but if you don’t use them within the allotted time, they take them and send them somewhere else. Here in Liberal, I know we don’t have very many rental assisted places that people can live at.”
Heather said people are aware of Parklane Towers as a rental assisted facility. That complex is located in north Liberal behind Dillon’s, but Heather said many aren’t aware of Westkan.
“They’re very surprised when they call,” she said. “You’re income based. I didn’t know that. We go through a time period in which if we lose any more rental assistance, it’s going to be a detriment to anybody who comes after it’s all used up again.”
Westkan is a drug free complex, according to Heather.
“You can’t have any type of a drug history,” she said. “You can’t use drugs on the property. If you are found to be doing them, you’re gone. You can’t have any felonies. With misdemeanors, we kind of go through and look at them. If they’re violent misdemeanors, we don’t want them out here. We do want to make sure the kids are safe.”
Heather said Westkan does a criminal background check and a credit check for perspective tenants.
“If you owe past landlords or utility companies, it’s best you get them paid up,” she said. “You have to have some source of income.”
Moderate income, which is about $52,000 for a household of six, is the maximum amount of money a person can make to qualify for an apartment, but Heather said many people qualify under this guideline.
“A single person who’s working for National Beef is going to pay a higher rent amount,” she said. “People who are working for Wal-Mart, teacher’s aides, single mothers who are just getting started are most likely going to qualify for rental assistance. They’d get credit for children who live in the household.”
The government inspects Westkan every six months, according to Heather.
“Every month, we do a project worksheet, and if we have any unused RA at the end of the six-month time period, then they take whatever I haven’t used in July,” she said. “But if I keep it used up, I don’t run out. After that’s used up, we take HUD vouchers.”
Westkan features 110 apartments, and out of those, 97 are rental assistance.
“It doesn’t matter what apartment I assign the person to,” Heather said. “If they qualify for RA, it just transfers to that apartment. I have six unused right now.”
Heather said Westkan is a quiet complex.
“We have a 24-hour maintenance staff for emergencies,” she said. “We keep the yard clean, and we take care of all the yard maintenance. We shovel the snow off the sidewalks up to the doors. If there’s a problem in the laundromat, it gets taken care of in a timely manner.”