Archive for Thursday, April 6, 2006

Affordable homes elusive for many

Task force hopes to help would-be owners

April 6, 2006

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In some ways, the worst part about Tanya Spacek's nearly three-year search for an affordable home to buy in Lawrence is how it has made her feel.

"I don't feel like part of the middle class," Spacek said. "I feel like low working class here."

It's frustrating because both she and her husband have full-time jobs, but with two children and an annual income of just less than $40,000, finding a home to call their own is difficult at best in Lawrence.

Helping people like Spacek is what a new city task force - which first met Wednesday - hopes to do.

"We have all watched housing prices rise and our wages haven't," said City Commissioner Boog Highberger, who is serving as chairman of the city's Housing Needs Task Force. "It's getting harder and harder to have a home here in Lawrence."

The 12-member task force agreed Wednesday to set a broad goal of creating strategies that will allow people who work in Lawrence to also live in Lawrence. If the city can't figure out a way to accommodate a broad range of income levels, the community risks losing its diversity, Highberger said.

Home builders with Crumet Construction, Patrick Nieder, front, Lawrence, Ed Nieder, right, Lawrence, and Mike Lesher, left, work Wednesday afternoon on the exterior of a new home near the corner of 15th Street and Haskell Avenue. With housing prices outpacing wage increases, many Lawrence residents have had a difficult time finding an affordable home. A new city task force is convening to address that problem.

Home builders with Crumet Construction, Patrick Nieder, front, Lawrence, Ed Nieder, right, Lawrence, and Mike Lesher, left, work Wednesday afternoon on the exterior of a new home near the corner of 15th Street and Haskell Avenue. With housing prices outpacing wage increases, many Lawrence residents have had a difficult time finding an affordable home. A new city task force is convening to address that problem.

Spacek thinks the situation is serious. She works as a secretary at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and her husband, Nick, works at a downtown bakery. She's originally from a factory town in northern Illinois that is similar in size to Lawrence. She knows that if she would have decided to stay there that her family's income would have been enough to squarely plant them in the middle-class lifestyle.

"My best friend I grew up with makes about what Nick and I make, and they're living the good life," Spacek said. "It is a very nice life for them. I don't want to live back there because I love Lawrence, but it is frustrating to think how different life is here."

Spacek said she knew many communities where $60,000 would purchase a nice three-bedroom home. She's paying more than twice that for her new home in the 300 block of Illinois Street, and then is only able to swing the deal thanks to help from Lawrence's Tenants to Homeowners.

A report in May by a consulting firm hired by the city to examine the community's affordable housing situation said that, based on wages in the area, many blue-collar workers would need a home that was $100,000 or less or a rent payment of $450 or less.

A search Wednesday through the Lawrence Multiple Listing Service of homes found that there were 24 homes for sale in the city that were $100,000 or less. In Topeka, which has a population not quite two times larger than Lawrence, there were 407 listings on a similar MLS Web site.

Rebecca Buford, executive director of Tenants to Homeowners and a member of the task force, said many of the lower-priced homes in Lawrence still weren't a good value because they often needed major work.

"You can find several houses in the $80,000 to $100,000 range, but none of us would live in them," Buford told task force members. "When we talk about a property being substandard housing, we're not talking about them not having a fireplace or a big yard. We're talking about them not having a working furnace or something like that."

The new task force won't just focus on people trying to buy an affordable home. The members agreed to look at the city's rental situation as well. Barbara Huppee, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, said the community has a total of 1,616 subsidized rental housing units. But that number has remained virtually unchanged since 1995 when a federal grant program to create such units dried up.













New task force

Members of the city's new Housing Needs Task Force are: ¢ Boog Highberger, city commissioner ¢ Barbara Huppee, Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority ¢ Carrie Lindsey, League of Women Voters ¢ Dennis Constance, Kaw Valley Living Wage Alliance ¢ Phil Struble, Landplan Engineering ¢ Bill Yanek, Lawrence Association of Realtors ¢ Bob Santee, Santee Denning Construction ¢ Rebecca Buford, Tenants to Homeowners ¢ Mary Grob, Douglas County Bank ¢ Gwen Klingenberg, Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods ¢ Lavern Squier, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce ¢ Jim Dick, Pine Tree Apartments

Comments

norm 9 years, 3 months ago

"I don't feel like part of the middle class," Spacek said. "I feel like low working class here."

And what's so bad about being "...low working class...."? The jobs held by the two complaining appear to be in "working class" land.

And, why would the woman "love" a place where she's been "X'd" out of the housing market?

I don't "love" the place anymore. I've seen what it has become and is becoming. In ten years (perhaps even five), Lawrence will be a far more grossly stratified "community" than one could ever imagine. People can bowl in block parties and it will make no difference.

Tanya Spacek 9 years, 3 months ago

norm: I wasn't complaining when I said I didn't feel like my husband and I should be categorized as "middle class". I said we were probably closer to "upper working class" (a few bucks more than minimum wage) because we make enough to have a few bucks left over at the end of the month. My family was working class, Nick's family is "upper working class". To me, "middle class" is $60,000-70,000 a year. I wouldn't even know what to do with that kind of money! I was telling the reporter not to call us "middle class".

Bowhunter99: We were not able to find anything in our price range that would pass City inspection. Like Rebecca said, that doesn't mean tiny backyard and no fireplace. We're talking buckling foundations, broken slabs, rotting windows, buckled roofs. When we decided to try straight financing, after getting tired of having the houses we picked fail inspection, we went for a townhouse in the very area you talked about. The home inspector came in, found a rotting floor, cracked slab that would need $20,000 of mudjacking (plus permission from the owner of the other side of the house), furnace and water heater were ancient and would give out in a few years (but the owner refused to replace them first), and a myriad of other things . After a fight, we were able to break the contract, and wait for another year. I will say, that house inspection cost $250 but saved me $135,000. Even with this new house we're buying, that I feel confident is a-okay, I'm still paying to have an independent home inspector check it before we close.

Lastly, I have lived all over the States, from Florida, to CA to MI and back. Lawrence is the first place that felt like I could call it home. It's not so small that a person feels isolated and in the middle of nowhere, but it's not so big that you can't wave or nod at someone when you pass them on the street. My children and I are thriving here. I was prepared to rent forever if I had to, but I'm glad I was able to use this program.

Tanya Spacek 9 years, 3 months ago

I was really happy to do an interview and help pimp Tenants To Homeowners. I think the program is wonderful, and Rebecca is a great person to have on your side when you're looking for a house.

But when the reporter asked me what was the worst thing about looking for a house, I told him it was getting disappointed over and over again as the houses we could afford failed inspection. When I was talking about "classes" it was to correct him because he kept referring to me and Nick as "middle class". I wish they had left things in context and not cut and pasted to make me sound like an ass.

blessed3x 9 years, 3 months ago

Okay, I'm going to let you folks in on a little secret.

Lean in REAL close to the computer screen and I'll whisper in your ear.

GET OUT OF LAWRENCE!!!

Three years ago my wife and I bought a beautiful two-story house in a small, surrounding community for about half what it would have been in Lawrence. Now, don't get me wrong, prices are going up everywhere, but I'm not aware of anyplace in Kansas where the housing market is as far out of whack as Lawrence. At least places like Overland Park have the job base to support higher priced homes. Lawrence has limited growth to the point where you either earn more than you're worth as a Professor at KU or work for peanuts at the used record store downtown.

Unless the housing market takes a dive, I feel you will be seeing a reversal of the influx of people to larger cities from the rural towns that we have seen over the last decade or two.

cowboy 9 years, 3 months ago

The only way that Lawrence will have pseudo affordable starter homes is if it is done by a non-profit entity. You can find very affordable 1000 sq ft plans but you will have 60,000 in costs to build it , plus 20000 for a lot.

Or get a loan and build it yourself , thats how we did it in the olden days , you know about 20 years ago before we all got lazy.

Tanya Spacek 9 years, 3 months ago

the used record stores downtown is why I stay in Lawrence. I think it is ridiculous that people who work here can't afford to buy here, but I'd suck it up and keep renting if that's what I had to do until the kids were grown.

NorthLawrenceDude 9 years, 3 months ago

Sorry folks, Bowhunter is correct. There are 2 very nice ranch houses for sale on Maiden lane in North Lawrence right now for 90k-100k. There is another ranch house on Pleasant in NL for 95k. All are very nice, very livable.. with decent yards and neighbors. SO QUIT-YUR-COMPLAINING, and move to areas you CAN AFFORD.

blessed is correct also. Some friends told me there is a gorgeous 5 br VICTORIAN home for sale in Mclouth for 110k. So drive a little, and save a lot...or settle for North or East Lawrence. Just quit whining!

Kelly Powell 9 years, 3 months ago

a 100k ranch house is a ripoff...it would go for 60 anywhere else.....And for 100k I would want NOT to smell pig farm and FMC, or get flooded every year.

bretherite 9 years, 3 months ago

I had a 5 bedroom 2 bath on the market for 6 months and no one would buy it. It was listed at 139,500 then dropped to 137000 and still no takers. We have over 2200 sq ft. Don't tell me there is no affordable housing in this town the problem is everyone wants a 200000 home on a 150000 budget and won't realize you have to start somewhere. And this house is very liveable. It is right down the street from Broken arrow. It is ANYTHING but a slum. We were offering all appliances as well as a home warranty. We have redone the kitchen and the living room. Bowhuter is right.

LivedinLawrence4Life 9 years, 3 months ago

So called "affordable housing" in Lawrence is a dream that is going to be extremely difficult to achieve. The same city commissioners who are touting "affordable housing" are talking about further increasing impact fees on new construction. In other words, they are going to increase the cost of all new homes, which pulls up the market price of re-sale homes. Furthermore, these same city commissioners are slowing down the approval process for new developments, thus decreasing supply of new homes. When supply is decreased, prices increase. Building 5 or 10 "affordable homes" with tax dollars and volunteers is wonderful, but doesn't put a dent in the problem. The only way to increase supply dramatically would be to annex huge parcels of land to the city and create a fast track platting process so that those willing to buy the land and take the risk to develop land into lots will be interested in Lawrence again. Many developers and builders have gotten out of Lawrence and moved on to communities that have leadership who are willing to approve developments faster without the extra costs and delays.

The idea that every person that works in Lawrence should be able to afford a home in Lawrence is a pipe dream. Lawrence homes are appreciating and in high demand. That causes market prices to go up. Do you think that everyone who works in Aspen or Boulder Colorado can afford to live there. No. They commute to work. That is life. If someone becomes educated and works so hard that his/her employer can't afford to lose that employee, it is likely that the employee will get paid more. Tax payers should not foot the bill to help people buy brand new nicer homes because their budget doesn't allow it in the normal market.

monkeyhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

The study should look at county valuations. Perhaps the "affordable" houses took a greater hit than the more expensive houses over the past few years. I believe the county's method could use a little tweaking.

For instance, I will be listing a very nice house in a great neighborhood soon for at least $5000 under county value because I feel that's what it is worth according to my research.

Kelly Powell 9 years, 3 months ago

Man i lived right next to fmc for a year and it freakin reeks when the wind is right....and your the first person to ever call me girly.

NorthLawrenceDude 9 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

imagold 9 years, 3 months ago

We moved out three years ago. Homes in Lawrence in our price range of 80k-100k were awful, as stated in the article. We also looked in Baldwin. Same story. So we went looking in Topeka. Got a nice 3-bedroom ranch with a full finished basement in the low 80's and it has a big fenced-in yard. We weren't looking for new. Cripes, we weren't stupid. We didn't want four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a guest room, a kitchen with an island, an office, a three-car garage, etc. We were looking for three bedrooms with a basement, affordable, comfortable, and in good condition. More people should say "I'm not playing this game" and buy elsewhere. It infuriates me that someone working a full-time job in Lawrence can't afford to buy a decent home in Lawrence. I'll be curious to see what this task force does.

Tanya, you said it like it is. Don't let some folks out here get to you.

cutny 9 years, 3 months ago

Lucky Nun, I think you came off as well-informed and well-spoken, as for some of the opinions expressed on this board to the contrary, I think you have to consider the source. I know first-hand how tough it is to find a space in this town for yourself when you are part of the working class. It's a great town, but wages are low and people make the trade-off because they enjoy the sense of community Lawrence offers and relative small-town feel. It's a great town, people that feel otherwise should follow the yellow brick road straight out of it.

bmwjhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

That construction worker is smoking. Not hot, but smoking. Isn't that illegal-- or at least weird-looking?

We're selling our house now for $10,000 under the county valuation. It does seem like they need to restructure their methods, and the way they do it is designed as an accelerant.

mom_of_three 9 years, 3 months ago

Tanya was doing the right thing with the home inspector, and she found a good one.

Cutny, that is why we live here, too.

DaREEKKU 9 years, 3 months ago

60-70,000 being middle class! My parents would have killed for that kind of money when I was growing up! The simple fact is that 100,000 for a house for people making 40,000 a year is not affordable. Does anybody else think it's amusing that Tuckaway management is advertising on a page for AFFORDABLE NICE housing? That's the problem, these landlords/contractors keep building cheap, crappy, expensive housing rather than offering affordable housing.

common_cents 9 years, 3 months ago

"We have all watched housing prices rise and our wages haven't," said City Commissioner Boog Highberger

As they just increased valuations again. It's all about taxes and the fact that they waste our money day in and day out and they need more, so they increase our taxes through one means or another.

We bought our first home in Lawrence in 1990 for 68,900 - it was a townhome, it was nice, in a decent neighborhood. That's a starter home. We sold it in 1998 for around 87,500. I just looked it up and the county has it valued at 125K. That is just rediculous.

Of course what we really need are more committees and things Boog can be a part of to tell us what is best for us. I look forward to seeing how much money he spends to tell us that houses are just not affordable here and we must do something about it.

Todd 9 years, 3 months ago

Supply and demand. Also, whatever happened to saving a downpayment? Ex. How do you know a $100k house isn't affordable for couple that pulls down $40k/yr? It depends on their downpayment & credit rating. I think people just assume okay credit and no downpayment. I don't see where people get off thinking they should be able to buy a house with no down payment. (should have at least enough down to emergency sell without going upside down on your loan)

hawkbygod 9 years, 3 months ago

Here are several things that Lawrence can do to use market forces to change the affordability of housing:

1) Create more new apartments and student housing options close to campus. Students want to live close to campus in new housing. If the city can increase the options close to KU (I'm not sure about the housing situation at Haskell) it will decrease the demand for housing in other parts of the city.

2) Create more disincentives to rent single family homes. I know this will piss off small landlords, but it is a good idea. Increase the fees for rental licenses and use that money to step up enforcement of the laws already on the books. If individual landlords have less of an incentive to buy cheap(er) single family homes, the demand goes down.

3) Increase the housing options. The new development code allows this, now the city must allow developers to make it happen. The proposal at 8th and Penn is a good start. Reuse older areas of the city to update the housing stock and provide everything from Condos to row houses to single family homes on smaller lots.

4) Lure not-for-profit developers from KC and Wichita. Lawrence has a "big" city type housing market, it needs to start treating it as such. Offer property tax breaks to a group like Swope Community Builders to build a mixed use, mixed income, neighborhood with a substantial number of below market rate housing options.

Godot 9 years, 3 months ago

Hawkbygod, you are Doug Compton, aren't you? Come on, fess up.

Sharon Nottingham 9 years, 3 months ago

Affordable housing in Lawrence is a joke! I had a friend visit here and they were astonished to find that newly built 3 bdr. duplexes near K-10 were going for $135k and up! What does 135k by me in Topeka? A heck of a lot more house with fewer headaches or repairs. We've been searching for a house in Lawrence for over a year and none of them have "wowed" me when looking at all of the repairs that would need to be made. Tax evaluations have gotten out of control, too. One home we looked at was put on the market asking $30,000 more than the previous year's appraisal, and the owners made NO improvements. Can you justify that?! We make over 100k a year and refuse to by a house that is overpriced for the crap that is inside or pay exhuberant prices for new homes that use cheap building materials & have small square footage. Let me ask one more question. Why is it that developers are building over $200k homes with townhomes right across the street? Can we think of a better way to devalue an investment?!

Luxor 9 years, 3 months ago

When you have a combined income of under $40,000 and you choose to have two kids, you've pretty much buggered yourself financially.

Todd 9 years, 3 months ago

hipgal, you have enough income to give yourself options that others simply don't have. If low end housing is overvalued then you can buy mid-range or high-end housing. People with household incomes in the $30-40k/yr range don't have those options.

Luxor, $40k/yr is adaquate income to support a family of 4. Kids are as expensive as you want them to be.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 3 months ago

wow - everyone's toasties were soggy today, weren' t they?

I sure couldn't afford to own a house here, regardless of condition. So I don't try to.

It is frustrating to us po' folks.

SpeedRacer 9 years, 3 months ago

When I was a young adult, I moved to Lawrence from southern California where there was no possibility of ever owning a home and when interest rates were at 14%. I was able to purchase a home and have lived in it for 25 years. People lamented at the time that the only way anyone would ever be able to afford a house in the future would be to inherit one. Well, interest rates went down and more people were able to afford them. But over the years I have also learned that you pay for what you want. Homes like mine sold in Prairie Village for about 25% less and friends of mine were buying beautiful old homes in KCMO for next to nothing. But, Lawrence was where I wanted to stay, and I was willing to pay more for it. Why are homes so costly in Lawrence? Because it is a desirable place to live.

hawkbygod 9 years, 3 months ago

Posted by Godot "Hawkbygod, you are Doug Compton, aren't you"

That is a low blow man. Ouch...

craigers 9 years, 3 months ago

There are grants available to people that want to buy a home and have a down payment. They need to look into it.

Sandra Willis 9 years, 3 months ago

When I came to Lawrence, I was shocked at the costs being charged for places that _I_ was offered for renting. I had never paid more than $150 before getting here.

Godot 9 years, 3 months ago

Tanya, I hope you have a lot more in savings than just your down payment, because you are going to need a reserve to pay for repairs. And I hope you are locking in a fixed interest rate rather than going for the adjustable kind.

The problem with the government helping people buy homes who otherwise couldn't qualify is this: we (taxpayers) are putting people who are walking a thin line, financially, in an even more precarious position by burdening them with taxes, insurance, and home maintenance, all of which are unpredictable. At least if you sign a lease, you can predict what your housing expenses will be for the next 12 months. Not so with a house you own.

Godot 9 years, 3 months ago

Before you go out on a limb and purchase a house you cannot afford without getting help, consider this:

Rent. Take the money you would have put into a downpayment and put it in a savings account. Then every year, add what you would have spent on taxes, insurance, and a couple of thousand bucks for maintenance. Do this every year. Thirty years from now, you will find that 1) you had a lot more free time on your hands than you would have had as a homeowner, 2) you had a lot more freedom and mobility than your homeowner peers, and 3) you have a big chunk of change in the bank equal to or greater than the profit you would have made on a house, that you can spend as you wish, and you won't have to sell a house to get at it.

Confrontation 9 years, 3 months ago

I guess I just don't understand why Lawrence is a desirable place to live. The "small town" feel is going to be gone very soon. There's nothing exciting other than KU Basketball. I guess you have to be a rich white person in order to truly enjoy this city. Who else can afford to shop on Mass Street?

benm024 9 years, 3 months ago

Why must you people continually compare Topeka and Lawrence. "waaaaa, I can buy a house on the cheap in Topeka so why can't I in Lawrence"

Please listen carefully. For the majority of people, Lawrence is a more desirable location to live in then Topeka, hence more expensive real estate. The equivalent home in Topeka will ALWAYS be cheaper then the one in Lawrence.

If you want a nice, large, and inexpensive house, you are going to have to settle for life in Topeka. If you can't deal with that, think of it as an incentive to increase your income.

Sandman 9 years, 3 months ago

Talk to a realtor in Lawrence to get the real scoop.

Required "green space", onerous fees, roundabouts, taxes, and all sorts of "soak the rich" fees from City Hall get passed right on down to the home-buyer.

Want more affordable housing? Stop voting for hippies.

DaREEKKU 9 years, 3 months ago

Sandman.....I don't even know how to respond to that empty comment. "Stop voting for hippies".....get real.

Kathleen Christian 9 years, 3 months ago

I've lived in the same place for 9 years since I moved out here from the east. I've been looking to move but what I've found is rent is at best $180-$200 more than what I am paying now and the places I've look at are slums and I'm not referring just to the yards. You can plant grass, bushes and flowers, but that isn't going to make a broken down house look better. It seems to me that since property values were confirmed rents jumped and locked in at these higher prices. I can't afford that much more a month in rent. So my only other thought is to move back East and get a higher paying job (same type of job) and find better housing and I like Lawrence, but that may be the choice I have to make - unless things change here.

Gareth Skarka 9 years, 3 months ago

Having returned to Lawrence after 7 years in NYC, I have to say that this article and the comments posted above have me giggling my ass off.

Jamesaust 9 years, 3 months ago

"Spacek said she knew many communities where $60,000 would purchase a nice three-bedroom home."

I know of many communities in Kansas (just like the rust-belt) where $60k would do the same. They're just not in places where most people would choose to live. Likewise, "affordable housing" in Apsen or Malibu is in short supply.

Look, for a significant number of people, Lawrence is a relatively attractive place to live or move to (relative to nearby communities). Many of those people have jobs in those other communities and the consequential incomes that can be found outside of Lawrence. Those persons, in a free market, OUTBID others, which causes prices to exist above their 'natural' price (in the short run). Over time an influx of new development will expand the supply of housing and (other things equal) push down prices back to the 'natural' price.

I see no obvious reason why the profiled subjects in this article could not pursue those same jobs somewhere else where housing costs are less or wages are higher.

benm024 9 years, 3 months ago

Sandman, Those projects that you consider "soak the rich fees" are the difference between the atmosphere and look of Lawrence, and that of Topeka. Please by all means head West if you don't care for the "hippies"

Fatty_McButterpants 9 years, 3 months ago

Gareth: You are so worldly. I'm glad you find it amusing. Of course, when you lived in NYC you were probably paid a much higher salary to afford things. It's not like you were getting paid what people do here and then had to turn around and pay NYC rental prices.

armyguy 9 years, 3 months ago

A income of 40k per year will get you a loan of about $1200 per month. At current home loan rates, that will get you about a 135-140k house. There are many of homes in Lawrence in that price range. There are some for sale in decent shape in my part of town. (Park Hill, behind checkers) You just have to look at many and when you find one jump on it. They may be tacky but in good condtion. I know mine was. but I bought one on the same income just over a year ago.

karmaxs3 9 years, 3 months ago

The real issue in Lawrence isn't the cost of housing, it's the pay of jobs. Unless you have a professional degree or work in KC or Topeka, a college degree is just something that looks nice on a wall.

My husbad had a professional degree, and we had a nice home in Lawrence. We moved to the Phoenix area and he is now making almost double what he made in Lawrence and doing basically the same thing. It more than makes up for the difference in the cost of living.

If you want to get paid to work, don't live in Lawrence. Simple. Otherwise, it's a great town with nice used record stores and a good basketball team. Whatever.

armyguy 9 years, 3 months ago

Just another random thought, my current house payment would have paid for two homes a year in the small Kansas town I moved from.

dex 9 years, 3 months ago

if homes aren't "affordable" then people wouldn't be buying them, by definition. somebody is paying for these homes otherwise the builders would go out of business.

the more that development is restricted, either through natural or artificial constraints (e.g. legislated constraints or unpredictable legislation), the faster prices will continue rise as long as lawrence is a "nice place to live" and is "nearby" sources of real jobs (i.e. KC, Topeka).

what exactly is this "task force" going to discover? so long as development (residential and commercial) is restricted in lawrence, prices will continue to rise and sprawl from the east and west will continue to advance.

it happened to boulder, it will happen lawrence. "unchecked" growth is probably the only "solution" that could even plausibly result in lower housing prices. any other scheme will probably have no effect at best and raise prices further at worst.

calnvy 9 years, 3 months ago

It seems kind of silly to me why everyone is arguing about this... it is simple supply and demand... if people are willing to pay these amounts for housing.... the prices will keep going up. ... then the houses get to where they are too much for most people to afford.... then they start to build condos..... tons of condos.... condo conversions... aka old apartment complexes with new outter shell... stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops, cause they present the same opportunity to own and not rent that a single family dwelling does... they sell like mad.... then that comes to a hault and there is a surplus of condos.... the only way that the people who invested in these condo business get any return is to sell.... if there are more condos than buyers... you make more buyers, by lowering the cost.... condo costs go down people buy more condos and less houses.... housing prices go down.... should only take about 20 years and then you will have affordable housing.

I live in san diego now, I just wish that the cost of housing was what it is in lawrence. I live in a 4br townhome... brand new, but in a "redevelopment" area... aka ghetto.... nice place.... but for $490,000??? not quite. The cheapest place I have found here was for $200,000.... for a 293sqft condo.... bout the size of a motel 6 room.....

the median income out here is only about $2000 a year more than in Lawrence, but the average house cost is just a hair below $500,000

moveforward 9 years, 3 months ago

Less than 15% of Californians own their own home.

Homes are a lazy savings tool and way over rated as an investment of your money. But for most people, they are raised to think it is a smart investment and part of the ritual of maturity. Hogwash!

If you do not own a home right now, or plan to live in it for the next few years, a purchase is not a wise investment. Like a new car... it is a declining investment. Why choose to loose net worth just because you are 'supposed to' own your home?

leftlawrenceafter30years 9 years, 3 months ago

We saw the writing on the wall a couple of years ago and decided to leave the town that we loved. The guy who bought our house had looked at over twenty houses and was ecstatic at finding an affordable house in great condition in East Lawrence. With the profit from the sale, we were able to purchase outright our new home in the country. It is a great feeling to wake up everyday and know we don't have a mortgage. We have not returned to Lawrence and have no desire to do so. I guess it is about priorities. We have a better quality of life and none of the headaches of Lawrence.

bugmenot 9 years, 3 months ago

Homes are worth what people will pay for them. Can't find affordable housing, move somewhere else less desirable to live. Trying to buy a good house on a $40K budget with 2 kids in Lawrence, give me a break.

Celeste Plitz 9 years, 3 months ago

I tell you what, I love Lawrence. I was born and grew up in Lawrence, and I want to go back. My husband and I are planning on paying off our house here in Chandler(Az) and either buying a house outright, or putting a great downpayment on something out in the country around the Lawrence area. The prices in Kansas are so affordable compared to here, I find the complaining a bit tiresome. You don't know how fortunate you are! We are middle class ourselves, (about 50k a year) and we have two children-I don't know why people are so freaked out about affording a housepayment on that sort of salary. If you are smart about what you spend, it's not hard. We pay off our credit card every month, our cars are paid off, and we actually manage to save money every month. As a result, my dream of having a nice ranch for horses where I can train should be a reality in about 10 years or so. Kansas is a great place to live, and I won't be complaining that I can't find a great place for a reasonable amount, because I'm going to be frickin' ecstatic to be able to afford 25 acres or more when I'd be paying literallymillions for something like that here. ( A friend of mine is selling her five acre parcel in Chandler for 1.2 million, as an example. That is the going price out here) I've been looking at the real estate, and there are some really nice places available that are under 250 grand-to me, that is dirt cheap. With a nice downpayment, we'll be able to afford that no problem. If we were willing to live somewhere other than Lawrence, it would be even cheaper. If people have enough self-discipline to save their money and actually have a nice downpayment, they would be able to afford a lot more house for their money. If more people did that, then it might not be such an issue.

bugmenot 9 years, 3 months ago

Booo Hoooo, I want a 3000 sq. foot house for $10,000. While I'm at it, I want a new Mercedes for $5000 and that new 50 inch plasma for $100. Boooo Hooooo.

Jackson 9 years, 3 months ago

Un-affordable and over-priced houses, especially in Central Lawrence, is no mystery.

There are more than 4 thousand houses in SF (single family) zoned Lawrence neighborhoods that are owned by landlords (who use them) for the "business" of rental to 3 (or more) un-related renters for $1,200 (or more) per mo.

Rental income makes 60K houses worth $125.000, even though they are only "fixer-uppers" for family living.

Rental housing to multiple-income un-related renters in SF Zoned neighborhoods is responsible for over-priced and unaffordable housing in Lawrence. Rental houses to un-related renters in SF neighborhoods are apartments by de-facto.

The City Commission can solve the housing shortage with an ordinance limiting the number of unrelated renters to two (2) in SF zoned neighborhoods. Why? Because it will reduce their income (and value) by 1/3rd.

Rental housing for more than (2) un-related renters should be restricted to MF (multi-family) apartment zoning.

A determined City Commission can solve the problem of "un-affordable housing".

bugmenot 9 years, 3 months ago

Or why not discriminate against other groups besides college students Jackasson. How about don't let blacks or minorities rent or buy, surely that'd let us good white folk be able to afford more houses as there would be less buyers. Maybe just ban college students from housing altogether, you know, since this town is dependent on the college. If you don't want to live in the city because of high prices, then don't, there are plenty of other cities to live in. Move to Tonanoxie, Eudora, or many other area cities.

Jackson 9 years, 3 months ago

"Bugmenot" doesn't understand the problem because he/she is espousing the slumlord's 'red-herring' view re. "discrimination against student renters".

Unfortunately, for Lawrence, you are not alone.

Plainly put, the problem of rental housing to (3) or more unrelated renters is ONLY A PROBLEM IN SF (single-family) ZONED NEIGHBORHOODS. A zoning map will clarify this misunderstanding. Eg., Oread, most of Cordley, & neighborhoods immediately N. & E. of KU ARE zoned MF (multi-family), and are unaffected.

The problem stems from a flawed 1965 city ordinance that defines a family as either: (1) man, wife, & kids or, (2) 4-unrelated renters.

The rental / purchasing power of 4- unrelated renters is at least twice that of a family. This is why houses rent (& sell) for 50% to 100% more than they are worth (for family rental or purchase, especially in central Lawrence.

Owner-occupied houses do not have the same tax-write-offs as do rental property. It's an un-even playing field, tilted in favor of rental landlords, and should not be allowed in SF zoned neighborhoods.

Rental housing is taxed (locally) as owner-occupied, but enjoys Fed.& State tax-write-offs as a "business". What's fair about that?

Please re-read original letter.

Godot 9 years, 3 months ago

Bugmenot, how does this fit in with your proposed zoning?

A woman rents a 3 BR house for herself and her two children. She invites her significant other to move in with her. To help make ends meet, they invite a roommate to occupy the third bedroom, and help out with babysitting.

That is not an unusual situation.

Would this group of people be in violation of your zoning ordinance?

Jackson 9 years, 3 months ago

Godot, I believe your question was addressed to me (Jackson).

The "unusual" situation to which you alude is miniscule to the "big picture", and would likely be tolerated.

Aproximately 46% of SF zoned housing in central Lawrence neighborhoods are used for the "business" of rental to 3 (or more) unrelated people (with no children). (This is in addition to almost 100% of houses in MF (multi-family) zoning).

This represents over 4,000 (SF zoned) houses that, in most cities, would be occupied by families (with children).

Allowing the "business" of renting to 3 or more unrelated people in SF zoned neighborhoods artificially inflates the valued of these "fixer-uppers" aprox. 50%, making them un-saleable (or un-rentable) to families.

Families that would have occupied these houses now live in Baldwin, Eudora, DeSoto, etc., where housing is 25% to 30% LESS than in Lawrence.

497 school enrollment has steadily declined for the past 10 years because "starter" homes in Lawrence are $180,000, or more.

Why would a family buy a $140,000. "fixer-upper" (plus an additional $30,000.)in Lawrence, when they can purchase a better house in a family oriented neighborhood in Eudora, etc. for less?

Remember- the subject of this discussion is, "why is there a lack of affordable housing in Lawrence"?

Renting to 3 or more un-related tenants in SF zoning is directly responsible for inflated housing (rental & sale) in (SF) neighborhoods.

If rental in SF neighborhoods was reduced to 2 unrelated renters, rental & sale prices would drop at least 30%.

This would make over 4,000 houses "affordable".

LivedinLawrence4Life 9 years, 3 months ago

Observer and friends. If you want to make housing more affordable, put your own home on the market for much lower than the market value. Then that will help someone out there get an affordable home.

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