Local nonprofit SENT Topeka has made progress in its four-year strategy initiative to enact change in the Hi-Crest community through housing and development.
And now, SENT Topeka — which stands for Strengthening and Equipping Neighborhoods Together — is now working on the first larger build for the neighborhood.
After successfully completing the building of two previous homes on Girard in the past two years in the Hi-Crest area, SENT is building a new home at 3543 S.E. Indiana.
The ground broke on the property last month.
More:Soul Sisters resale shop open in Topeka’s central Highland Park neighborhood
The corner home will have four bedrooms, two living spaces, three baths and a partially finished basement with a modern design. It will be what SENT’s founder and chairman Johnathan Sublet called the “largest build yet.”
“We’re trying to truly build a cohesive unified community, because that’s how we live,” Sublet said, adding that this will be the organization’s first time to use funding through Housing and Urban Development funds, as well as Community Housing Developing Organization.
The nonprofit has worked with up to 20 homes in the neighborhood. The new home will go to a family that is at least at 80% of the medium income of the area itself.
Through the Curb Appeal Program, SENT partners with homeowners in the Hi-Crest community and provides up to $10,000 in increasing the curb appeal of the home.
Curb appeal, house rehabs and new home constructions are all a part of SENT’s goal to transform 15% of the housing in the Hi-Crest community through housing and development.
More:Here’s what new owner of Herman’s Meat & Smokehouse has planned for store and restaurant
Organizations helps families get pathway to home ownership
The increase includes improvements on the exterior of the home like new paint colors and fencing. SENT also “rehabs homes” by demolishing the home down to a stud and re-working the entire structure.
“We want to make sure that families who traditionally wouldn’t have an entry into home ownership have that entryway,” Sublet said. “Our motto is a little bit different. We’re trying to create mixed-income housing in the neighborhood, and we want to sell 80% of the houses that we transform.”
Creating mixed-income housing follows a course of action.
The nonprofit’s properties aren’t all low-income properties. Some are priced at market ratings. Sublet said the organization does that to avoid depressing the real-estate market in the neighborhood.
“If we’re not careful, we can hurt the current homeowner by pricing the houses too low.” he said.
“If we undersold all our homes at low rates, it would hurt appraisals for what they earn when attempting to sell,” Sublet said. “While it might benefit the person, who is trying to buy, it doesn’t benefit the person in the neighborhood who is trying to sell.”
More:This store in Topeka is where you can buy and sell gently used sporting gear and equipment
Properties in the low- to moderate-income range are managed by Topeka Housing Authority while market rate units are managed by Haus Property Partners.
SENT doesn’t sell investment properties. The house must be owner occupied. It includes first right of refusal within a deed while the homes are priced to allow first-time buyers access to assistance programs.
“We’re not looking to sell to an investor who just wants to rent it out.” Sublet said.
The new home SENT is building will be the second home that students at Washburn Rural high school in the construction program have assisted in creating. Tthe home is expected to be done by early fall.
What’s next for the development of Hi-Crest and SENT?
SENT’s work won’t stop after the build of the third home.
For next year, members have been working with Kansas State University to design Topeka’s first NetZero home, which is designed to decrease the cost of living for occupants. The layout of the home allows for reduced utility costs.
“We’re deeply invested in seeing our neighborhood transform, and we’re painting a new narrative from what people believe is possible.” Sublet said.
Through gifts and investments, SENT has acquired 29 acres of land, sitting just off S.E. 29th Street, better known as Fremont Hill. SENT will develop single-family residences on the west side and community development on the east side.
Fremont Hill’s development on the west side will consist of mixed-income, single family homes. The east side will have a few community-oriented spaces, such as condo units, a community center, dog and skate parks, and more.
The housing development will target first-time homeowners and families with an average market-rate home price of $166,000.
Sublet said members are trying to tell people what they knew of Hi-Crest is no longer true.
“What I know about the neighborhood of Hi-Crest is it’s filled with resilient people who love each other dearly,” Sublet said. “People, who have survived some terrible situations, who overcome on a daily basis as they walk with others around them, and they care and deeply love and they’re a part of the fiber of our city.”
Keishera Lately is a business reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @Lately_KT.