Minister’s Passion: Affordable Homes for Northeast Wichita

Iasis Christian Center’s senior pastor is devoted to providing solid but low-cost houses to rent or buy on contract.

by PJ Griekspoor

Key Points:

  • Pastor’s mission: Renovating homes and bringing affordable housing to Wichita.
  • Pastor at Wichita’s Iasis Christian Center uses business to address housing crisis.
  • Pastor transforms deteriorating housing in Wichita with affordable home rehabs.

As senior pastor at Northeast Wichita’s Iasis Christian Center, William “Bill” Vann says he is first and foremost a pastor, having served in the ministry for 34 years, the last two decades at Iasis.

But he is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and advocate for his entire community, where his role as a businessman extends his ministry beyond the church.

For years, he operated a successful  chrome-plating business, River City Plating, and was recognized as the Minority Small Businessman of the Year in 1999. But he sold that business in 2009 and became involved in helping solve a growing community problem – deteriorating housing.

Vann buys rundown houses, predominantly in ZIP code 67214, and rehabs them.

So far he has rehabbed about 40 homes. While most of them he still holds as rental properties, about a handful of them he’s sold to some of his solid tenants, whom he believed in. For them, he carries the mortgage.  

It’s a model that helped him buy a home 36 years ago. 

He was about to get married and wanted to buy a home for himself and his new bride, but they had trouble qualifying for a loan.  

“Omar Finney did the exact same thing to help us get in a house,” said Vann. “I never kind of strayed away from that formula.” 

He said he is always willing to work with a tenant who might be interested in buying a home.

“I’m fine with it if they want to rent a year or two or three and prepare to buy it,” he said. “It’s a big step.”

Francisco Garcia, who bought a home from Vann seven years ago, says it is a big step he is glad he took.

“I love my home,” he said. “I thank Pastor Vann for helping us.”

Still, the majority of the properties he’s bought, he maintains as rentals.  

“The rental income is what provides the revenue for me to buy more properties to fix up,” he says. 

Francisco Garcia has lived in his home for seven years. He is purchasing the home from William Vann as part of Vann’s program to bring affordable housing to the community.

Mostly Rehabs

Vann sticks mostly to rehabs, but said he does have two duplexes he’s scheduled to build on vacant lots near 15th Street and Grove.

“It is cheaper to rehab an existing house than to build a new one,” he said. More affordable homes means a greater benefit to the community he is called to serve.

As a licensed general contractor, he can do a lot of the work involved himself but does hire trade specialists such as electricians and plumbers mostly from the community.  

“I try to make sure my dollars are going to circulate in our community before it leaves.”  

It’s another way he’s helping build the community. 

And that is done on purpose.  

He says he tries to buy a vacant property for $15,000 to $20,000 and put an equivalent amount into it. That makes a sale for $40,000 to $60,000 profitable for him. And it also means he can offer a house for rent at a lower price.

Keeping Prices in Reach

“There’s a need for those lower-priced homes. There are people who are just never going to be in a position to pay $100,000 to $150,000 for a house. But half that is within reach for a lot more people.”

In addition, he’s able to keep the rent on his properties well below Wichita market rate and a rate that keeps them at or below the standard ceiling of 30% of a household’s income.   

To keep his rents low, Vann said he tries everything in his power to keep costs down. Many of the homes he works on have the hardwood floors that were popular when they were built in the 1950s, and he restores those when possible. 

“I don’t put in granite countertops and high-end appliances,” he said. “I save a dime every place I can to keep the price down and still offer a nice home; something you are proud to invite your friends into, but something affordable.”

Keeping His Properties Nice

Vann said he’s a “hands-on landlord.” It’s how he keeps his property in good condition. 

“I put eyeballs on all my properties at least once a month just to make sure the tenants are taking care of them, that there is no damage and the yard is mowed and cleaned up.”

While his homes aren’t the Taj Majal, he said, they’re nice.  

“I want to make sure that my house is in the top three on the block for appearance.”

His Concerns About the Community 

Vann says he’s concerned by the lack of investment by developers in the community who see Northeast Wichita as a place to invest. He’s not necessarily talking about large subdivisions or apartment complexes, there’s not a lot of space for that.  

However, he says he continues to see smaller investment – a couple of houses, a few duplexes or townhomes – popping up in other parts of town, but not in Northeast Wichita.  

He’s also concerned by the growing investment by out-of-town companies that are virtually trying to “steal” houses from homeowners in Northeast Wichita.  

He says these people, like other bad landlords, don’t care about their tenants, and only care about making the most out of their investment.  

He’d like to see more houses in the community sold to investors from the community, like him, he says, “who care about the people and making the community better.”  

“I think of all of what I do as a ministry to the community,” he said. “You do what you can to help people. Sometimes, you get taken advantage of. Sometimes, people disappoint you. But at the end of the day, what I am about is trying to help.”

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Community Voice