A 1.6-acre tract of vacant land near 17th and Harper, which the city has owned since 1970, is being targeted for construction of up to five houses for Lawrence's "working poor."
The Lawrence City Commission agreed Tuesday to offer the land at a bargain-basement price to Lawrence Habitat for Humanity, a local group that builds and sells houses at cost and without interest to low-income families.
"We think the particular land there at 17th and Harper is especially suitable for our projections," John Gingerich, Habitat president, told the commission. "The neighborhood is a modest one and will be enhanced by the quality of our Habitat homes."
Habitat, which was begun in 1989, already has built two houses on land it bought from the city. It also is planning to build a third home on another tract previously owned by the city.
BUT THE group has had difficulty finding affordable property for continuing its house-building projects. Earlier this year, the commission instructed city staff to survey the city's land holdings to determine if any other tracts might be available for sale to Habitat.
City Manager Mike Wildgen, in a report to commissioners, said the city discovered it owned an unused six-acre tract near 17th and Harper streets. Further investigation showed that about 1.6 acres of the tract would be suitable for construction of homes. The acreage could accommodate four to five single-family residence lots, Wildgen said.
Public improvements, such as streets and sewers, would have to be extended to the property, and Wildgen estimated the cost of those improvements at $31,000. Those improvements would be borne by the developers of the land or eventual homeowners, he said.
The 1.6-acre tract was appraised at $8,500, but commissioners decided they would offer the land to Habitat at the cost of expenses related only to the sale. Those administrative costs are estimated at $850 to $1,000.
"THE BENEFIT in the long run is that an area of town gets a shot in the arm and perhaps property values can see some trend upward. Other development may be stimulated, and we generate property taxes from currently undeveloped land," Commissioner Mike Rundle said.
Commissioner Bob Schumm said he, too, was convinced that the city should sell the property at the bargain rate.
"The land has been sitting vacant for quite some time, and, I presume, it looks like land we are not going to use. Just the addition to the tax rolls and the humanitarian good that it does" warrants the sale, Schumm said.