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Archive for Thursday, March 14, 2002

City groups brainstorm affordable housing ideas

March 14, 2002

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The cost of housing in Lawrence is too high for low-income tenants to afford. Tenants with checkered histories often can't find a landlord willing to rent to them.

These are a few of the hurdles to affordable housing that a group of people representing various Lawrence housing, social service, financial and government organizations identified at a February meeting. The group reconvened Wednesday evening to brainstorm solutions to surmount those hurdles.

The meeting was facilitated by the Barriers to Housing Subcommittee of the Practitioner's Panel.

One solution that cropped up in discussions of several of the barriers was the creation of an individual or panel of individuals who could provide tenants with a continuum of education and assistance regarding how to apply for housing programs, how to maintain a property so as not to get evicted and how to budget money after receiving initial assistance from an outside source.

Such a coordinator could help tenants deal with the experience of finally living under a stable roof after being homeless for years, which can be an intimidating situation, said James Dunn, president of Landlords of Lawrence.

Other proposed solutions to affordability included rent controls, instituting a living wage and allowing low-income tenants to make partial deposit payments.

For tenants who have a checkered rental or credit history, meeting participants suggested establishing a way for the tenant to set up a contingency fund or escrow account to fall back on, allowing them to have a co-signer or even establishing a third party who agrees to manage their money.

Solutions discussed at the meeting may generate eventual action by the Barriers to Housing Subcommittee.

"The committee is going to take it, evaluate it and decide what's feasible to put into place," said Cindy Nau, neighborhood programs specialist for the city's neighborhood resources department.

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