Program paying housing incentives to attract employees gets green light

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A program helping companies pay housing incentives to get new employees to move to Topeka got the green light from area economic leaders.

The Joint Economic Development Organization approved the Choose Topeka program at its Wednesday night meeting. Their vote followed about 40 minutes of discussion over how the program would work and whether it was a wise use of local economic development sales tax dollars.

Shawnee Co. Commissioner Kevin Cook was the lone JEDO member voting against it.

GO Topeka will budget for $300,000 of incentives in 2021 — enough for 40 to 60 new applicants.

To qualify for the funding, Choose Topeka applicants must move to town for a full-time job and purchase a home or rent for primary residence within their first year of the move.

GO Topeka says people who rent a primary residence could receive up to $10,000, while someone purchasing a home could get a maximum $15,000. Companies would pay the full amount up-front. Once the employee has stayed for one year, GO Topeka would reimburse the company 50 percent.

If the employee moves before the year is up, companies would not be reimbursed.

Barbara Stapleton, vice president of business retention and talent initiatives for GO Topeka, said the program will be another tool to help the city grow.

“Even if we train the talent locally, if they've gone somewhere else,” she said. “So to be able to encourage people to look at Topeka as a thriving place with lots of work opportunities, to be able to help grow the existing businesses that we have, and help support our tax base and grow our population."