Low-Income Senior Apartments In Demand On Church Property

By Matthew Kelly The Wichita Eagle | May 31, 2024

Kyra Cano, 84, is paying $275 a month to live in a new two-bedroom apartment in the Central Landing community for low-income seniors at 6100 W. Maple St. Photo by Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle

When Kyra Cano got the call that she had been approved to move into the Central Landing senior housing community, she was overjoyed.

“I got in by a miracle,” Cano, 84, said.

She moved in in February as one of 16 applicants selected from a waiting list of more than 100 to live in a new addition of the 55-and-older housing development, which is owned by Central Community Church and managed by Mennonite Housing.

The first phase of eight quadplexes opened in late 2021. Four more buildings were completed early this year, bringing the total number of units to 48. There are currently no vacancies.

“We have a large property, and we’ve looked at ways of developing it in the past,” said Justin Mohr, executive pastor at the West Maple megachurch. “How do we use it to really impact our community?”

They landed on creating affordable housing for seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

“We saw it as an opportunity to help our community with a solution to that,” Mohr said.

Units are around 900 square feet with two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and an attached garage.

Rent at Central Landing ranges from $205 to $615 a month based on what residents can afford to pay. The federal grant program that sustains the development requires apartments to be rented out exclusively to low-income tenants — some of whom are at or below 30% of the area median income, some at or below 50%, and the rest at or below 60%. Mennonite Housing vets applicants to determine their eligibility.

Penny Herron, Mennonite’s property manager director, said many seniors in and around Wichita are being priced out of their leases, leaving them with few options.

“It’s not so much that all of them are without housing, but they are seeing an increase in their rental rates at their current location that they’re not able to afford on their fixed income, and so they’re trying to find something that is more affordable for them,” Herron said.

Cano, who relies on Social Security benefits after retiring at age 70, now pays $275 a month in rent. “It’s the cheapest I’ve had in my whole life,” she said — considerably more affordable than either of the apartments she stayed in previously after moving from Florida to Wichita in 2017 to be closer to two of her sons, her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“I love my kitchen. I’ve never had a big kitchen like this,” said Cano, who immigrated to the U.S. from Panama in 1988. She’s also partial to her living room.

“Because I can sit down, do everything, pray — I pray a lot there,” said Cano, a devout Catholic, who was initially surprised to learn residents weren’t expected to attend services at the non-denominational Christian church. The opportunity to live affordably at Central Landing, situated to the west of the church on the expansive property, was absolutely a blessing, she said.

“People are friendly here, and even though I don’t know them, every time that I go out and I see a car of people coming in, I say hello,” Cano said. “I like it here.”

Phase two of the Central Landing development has one extra component besides the apartments — a clubhouse with a kitchenette and communal space.

“We are Central Community Church,” Mohr said. “We believe in community, want community, so we built a clubhouse so the residents out there can have their own little community. They can host gatherings or dinners or game nights.”

Mohr said the church is still evaluating what else to do with the acres of vacant land around the development. Nothing is set in stone yet.

“I know the church at one point had talked about having another street [of apartments],” Herron said. “I don’t know if that’s still their plan, but we have let the developer and the church know that, from what we’re experiencing with the calls and the waitlist, the demand is there and we could easily fill up another probably 48 apartments.”

This article was made available by The Wichita Eagle, a member of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative. For more coverage, visit wichitajournalism.org.