Archive for Friday, September 3, 2004

Developers propose ‘affordable’ housing

East Lawrence neighbor concerned about plan

September 3, 2004

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A pair of area developers are hoping to win approval this month for a new East Lawrence subdivision they say would ease the city's shortage of affordable housing.

Lawrence architect Allen Belot and Lawrence real estate appraiser Tim Keller have filed plans with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department for a 6-acre development that would add 35 single-family homes near the southwest corner of 15th Street and Haskell Avenue.

Affordability is a big part of the pitch, right down to the name: Parnell Park Affordable Single-Family Homes.

Each house will have three bedrooms, two baths and will be priced at $150,000.

The development also will feature smaller lots with houses placed about five feet closer to the street than standard lots. The design allows developers to maximize the value of the land and keep lot prices below the city's average, Belot said.

The development's average lot sizes are expected to be 6,000 square feet, although some may be 4,000 square feet, Belot said. The average lot size for Lawrence residential developments is 8,000 square feet, according to Lawrence-Douglas County planning officials.

"There are ways to address affordable housing, but the planning staff has to think outside the box, as well as the developers," Belot said.

Planning commissioners are expected to hear about the project at their Sept. 22 meeting.

Not everyone is convinced the project will do much to improve affordable housing options in the city.

Ed Tato, chairman of the city's Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board and a board member of Tenants to Homeowners, a nonprofit that works to create affordable housing in the city, said a $150,000 home still would be out of reach for many residents.

"I guess you can call it affordable but it is not what I think of when I think about affordable housing," Tato said. "But it is less expensive than the average home."

The average sale price of a home during 2004 is $162,700, according to the Douglas County Appraiser's office. The average sale price of a new home is $238,800.

Tato, who also is president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Assn., said area neighborhood groups also had concerns with the design of the project. Those include worries about the development being aesthetically pleasing, because it has little green space.

"In my opinion, it just isn't going to hold up in 20 years," Tato said. "It is no good having affordability if you don't have a viable neighborhood."

Belot, who said he would meet with neighbors, said he thought the project would be well received. A builder has signed on to buy all 35 lots once the zoning is approved, he said. He declined to identify the builder.

"I think the builders have a pretty good idea of what is deemed affordable, and they seem to think they'll sell these as fast as they can build them," Belot said.

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