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Topeka City Council approves $250,000 for Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Here is why that matters.



TOPEKA, Kan. – Topeka City Council unanimously approved $250,000 for its Affordable Housing Trust Fund, making it the first substantial investment in the fund.

The trust fund previously had $600 after various council members donated their own money at a past council meeting but was allocated $250,000 from a $2.6 million general fund surplus.

The creation of an affordable housing trust fund was outlined as a key component in the city’s affordable housing study and could incentivize developers to build affordable housing in the city, said Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla. She said developers have a $5,000 gap to turn a profit when developing, but the trust fund could provide funds to meet them halfway.

The money will be match funding, which means funds can’t be expended until other dollars from other areas are secured. Allocating the money is especially important to spur private investment, multiple council members said.

City manager Brent Trout said city staff could more easily get private donations if there was money already in the fund, rather than trying to encourage the public to be the first ones to fund it.

Council member Sylvia Ortiz said she wanted the initial investment to be match funding, so money wouldn’t just sit in the fund unused when it could be used for street repair. She estimated $1 million will be needed to be added to the trust fund for it to be effectively funded.

Ortiz said she will host a movie night fundraiser with all funds going to the trust fund.

“We need to buy into this,” she said. “We just need to figure out what we need to do, and lets get started on this trust fund.”

Last week, Trout proposed the city only use $250,000 of a $6 million surplus to allocate to the fund. The $250,000 was a drop in the originally proposed $500,000, but the additional $250,000 was used to pay off high utility bills from severe cold earlier in the year.

“We all know how important the roads are,” De La Isla said. “We know that it is important for us to continue doing our operations. … It is so important we keep a focus on the people we are serving.”