More than two years after being awarded a $1.4 million federal grant to construct 25 units of scattered site housing, the Lawrence Housing Authority has received authorization to seek bids on the project.
Barbara Hupee, LHA executive director, said word came Friday from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's regional office in Kansas City that the LHA can solicit bids on the project.
But Huppee said it may take until March to receive bids for the housing. By then, the long delay in getting the project under way could push construction costs above the level of financing originally available. Any changes in construction plans to bring the costs into line or any request for additional funds would have to be approved by HUD.
Huppee said the project's architect, Michael Treanor, estimated that construction costs have increased 20 percent in the 2 years since the project began. Yet, Huppee said, because construction companies have been short of work recently, bids could come within available funding levels.
ONCE BIDS are awarded, contractors have 300 days to complete the work.
The majority of the low-income housing is planned for lots in North Lawrence, although two units are planned for the Riverside area of northwest Lawrence and another is planned in South Lawrence. LHA previously purchased the lots for $142,000.
Huppee said changes ordered by HUD were mainly responsible for the project's delay. And she said a new HUD division, which became responsible for the project after the grant was awarded, insisted on stringent construction standards. Those standards, she said, required a series of changes in LHA construction plans that had to be resubmitted by the LHA to HUD.
"They far exceeded the standards they have in their own handbook," she said.
Huppee said the addtional scattered site low-income housing units were overdue in Lawrence.
"I WAS MUCH younger" when the project began, she joked. "We submitted construction documents in January, 1990 exactly a year ago."
Since submitting documents for the grant, the need for low-income housing in Lawrence has increased significantly, Huppee said. She backs her claim by pointing to the number of homeless people seeking shelter in the city and by referring to the LHA's long waiting list for public housing.
Documents used to support the need for the low income housing in Lawrence used 1980 census data. Even then, Huppee said, there were 2,733 low-income families in Lawrence and only 900 units of low-income housing available.
"There were three times more low-income families than low-income housing available," she said.
Low-income families in Lawrence also face the state's highest fair-market rents, Huppee said.
DESPITE THE need for low-income housing, not everyone is happy with the LHA's plans.
A number of residents in the Breezedale neighborhood in south Lawrence object to a low-income home planned for 33-39 Winona Ave. They say it will lower their property values.
Bill Bell, a spokesman for the Breezedale residents opposed to the development, said Friday he planned to meet with neighbors to discuss the latest development.