Archive for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Affordable housing incentives proposed

December 14, 2006


Perhaps carrots are the answer to Lawrence's affordable housing issues.

A program offering incentives - perhaps from waiving city fees to allowing new neighborhoods to be built more densely than normally allowed - could be offered to builders if they guarantee that a certain percentage of the homes would be part of an official affordable housing program.

That's the tentative recommendation of the Housing Needs Task Force made Wednesday to city commissioners.

"My opinion is that this incentives-based approach will work," said Bill Yanek, a task force member who lobbies for the Lawrence Board of Realtors. "In a sense, it is about us putting our money where our mouth is. If this doesn't create new affordable housing, the housing industry will have to answer to that."

The key point that task force members reached Wednesday, however, was that the program would be voluntary for developers to participate in, rather than mandatory. The task force previously had been discussing a zoning change that would have required developers of projects of a certain size to make available homes for an affordable housing program.

City Commissioner Boog Highberger, chairman of the task force, said he thought the incentives-based approach would be worth trying for a one-year period. If it did not produce results, he said discussions could begin to make the program mandatory.

Rebecca Buford, executive director of Lawrence's Tenants to Homeowners, said she thought the incentives-based idea was a worthy one.

Gady Tene, of Omaha, Neb., left and his daughter, Shiri Tene, a student at Kansas University, look over an apartment in Lawrence as real estate agent Jean Collins stands by to answer questions. Gady Tene wants to buy a place both as an investment and for his daughter to live in while at KU.

Gady Tene, of Omaha, Neb., left and his daughter, Shiri Tene, a student at Kansas University, look over an apartment in Lawrence as real estate agent Jean Collins stands by to answer questions. Gady Tene wants to buy a place both as an investment and for his daughter to live in while at KU.

"This might be a good trial run to see if it gets us the type of affordable housing that we want," Buford said. "I'm realistic enough to know that it may not, but then we could start tweaking it. I would rather do something like this than just keep talking about the problem."

Details of the program still need to be developed, such as what price a home is considered affordable. The task force has said that the goal should be for people who work in Lawrence to be able to afford to live in Lawrence. The percentage of lots that would be entered into the program also needs to be determined.

The incentives program, however, wouldn't be the only strategy that the task force likely will recommend to commissioners. The group tentatively agreed that a permanent funding source should be found to generate at least $500,000 per year to fund a city housing trust fund. The trust fund would be able to invest in affordable housing projects in the city.

The group has expressed interest in getting legislative approval to increase the amount of mortgage registration tax that is charged in the county each time someone takes out a mortgage on a home. But the group also said it wanted to look for other funding sources that do not totally rely on homeowners.

The task force is scheduled to meet again at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 24 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Any recommendations by the task force would have to be approved by the City Commission. Highberger said he hoped to have a formal report ready for City Commission review in either January or February.


budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

With all the min. wage jobs here in Lawrence, is anything affordable. I didnt own a new home when I was 21

gontek 11 years, 4 months ago

Can they define "affordable"- what is affordable to you may not be to me. Appearantly $1M is affordable to many in Lawrence. So what is affordable?

$150,000 - to whom? $110,000 - 140,000 Entry level, is this affordable? $80,000 - gets you maybe a 500 SFLA apartment in a creekbed? $50,000 - a broken down shanty miles from the city limit?

bretherite 11 years, 4 months ago

We tried to sell our house last year 3 bedrooms, 2 nontraditinal bedrroms in a full finished basement 2 bathrooms, 2300 Sq Ft on bus route and walking distance to Broken Arrow for 135000. All appliances were staying . It was built in the 1950's. We had no takers. There is affordable housing but people don't want to have a starter house and work up they want what their parents have now.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago


dont forget:

$15,000 very nice starter home located on edge of town far from anything under sun.

samsnewplace 11 years, 4 months ago

GONTEK I agree with you totally! I bet you can't find anything (even junk) for $50,000 in this City any longer. That use to be the price tag for some little one bedroom, tiny yard, no garage or basement on the East side. In our parents day, they could buy a house for $10,000 and it was a nice house...maybe not new but nice. Times have changed due to greed.

common_cents 11 years, 4 months ago

Greed is correct - greed of the government.

Fees for this, fees for that, taxes, taxes, taxes. And for what? Our roads are still in shambles, we still have an inadequate sewer system and they still want more.

Here they are, once again, talking about affordable housing, right on the tail of the discussion of demanding extra fees from builders.

When we came here, we bought a small place, which was probably above our means, but we scraped, struggled and eventually got over the hump. After 15+ years, we have a nicer home and we looked for a deal - and got one. It takes patience, time and a lot of looking. We could not afford our house now, simply because of what our wonderful govt has decided it's worth, even though it would never sell for the price they've pasted on it. And why is it valued so high? Because they want MORE.

And don't forget the wonderful poster-child picture they put in the paper: Parents wanting to buy an apartment for their CHILD so she has a place to live while in college. One word for that - DORM.

This town is nuts.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

Ok Ill bite,

Affordable housing as politicaly defined would be houses built for ordinary people to habitate in. These houses, be of small or large form are to be within a price range that is considered "affordabl" hence the term "affordable housin"

"unafordable housing" a phrase coined in refrence to all others incapable of affording houses outside the market of "affordable". Political research shows that "affordable" homes sell better than "unaffordable homes" therefor declaring that the house market in ordinary areas should be deemed "affordable housing."

hope this helps

belle 11 years, 4 months ago

Did anyone catch that they plan to put the houses closer together??? The new neighborhoods in this town already have the houses basically touching each other! If there is only going to be a foot of yard between the houses, they might as well connect all of them!! peeve of mine.

belle 11 years, 4 months ago

Please keep in mind that it is not YOUNG PEOPLE that are neccessarily the problem. There are plenty of working older adults in this town that can't afford to buy a house. It is well established that housing is high here. Hence why they are trying to remedy the problem! Did anyone see the article a few months back?--Lawrence is NOT growing.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

The lack of affordable housing in Lawrence is a big problem and I like that they are trying to find ways to make it possible for people to live and work in town, like they used to. I agree with the "standards are too high" comments as well - I blame HGTV! My suggestion is for the city to create a rotating fund of low-interest loans for folks who buy older homes that need work and fix them up. There are many homes like that in town now, and I'd rather see them improved than have a lot of new construction. Perhaps the existence of such loans would encourage people to buy older homes rather than new ones.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

I did not know that everyone, regardless of income, had a right to be a homeowner. I thought owning a home was something one saved and scrimped for. Turns out that we who did that were the chumps. Rather than getting an education, and working hard, saving our money, we should have used our time becoming politically active so we could get the city commission to force others to pay higher taxes that would be used to buy houses for us.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

Godot, I don't think of it as being about the "right" to own a home, but rather as a question of what kind of city we want to live in. I'd rather have older homes bought and fixed up for owners than used as rentals with all of the associated problems. If you take your argument one step further, no one has a "right" to much of anything - we live in a society which we can structure/organize in the way we think best. Some folks think it better to let the chips fall where they may, and some believe it is better to try to level the playing field and give everyone a chance. Some would rather pay for police/prisons, and some for education/job training. There are consequences for whichever choices we make. And, I don't think any of the proposals include buying houses for anyone.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

And, why would we want to leave the power to greedy builders/developers who are only concerned about their profits? Is that in our best interests? The only entities which even have a chance of thinking about the common good are governmental (unfortunately). Private industry is and always will be focused on individual profit/gain. In fact, I have a friend who is working on integrity in management - his main (only?) selling point is that it improves profitability - what does that tell us?

Sigmund 11 years, 4 months ago

I can't wait for the PLC Kommissioners to form an construction company and build affordable homes here in Lawrence. To hear them talk it is just so easy! If they would do it once, JUST ONCE, I would listen more closely to their populist rhetoric.

I did a search for homes between $100,000 and $200,000 and newer than 5 years and found 11 homes with prices starting at $116,500. The kicker is the PLC wants to RESTRICT new home building, which if I remember my Economics 101 class will keep prices high.

The average price for a home nationwide is nearly $260,000 and in Lawrence its about $182,000. Sound pretty darn affordable, until you factor in median income: Lawrence is $57,476 and nationwide it is $76,893!

BTW, according to CNN/Money both Overland Park (6) and Olathe (13) ranked in the Top 20 places to live, Lawrence didn't even make the top 100. Be sure to compare Lawrence side-by-side to both of those towns, if you want to see how pathetic Larrytown really is!

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

jafs, I disagree that the proposals do not include buying houses for anyone.

"The group tentatively agreed that a permanent funding source should be found to generate at least $500,000 per year to fund a city housing trust fund. The trust fund would be able to invest in affordable housing projects in the city."

Since the proposals are about home ownership, I read that to mean that the city would be using that money to subsidize the purchase of new homes for the ambition-disadvantaged.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

This proposal is socialism in its purest form.

nomorebobsplease 11 years, 4 months ago

The picture is priceless. Does it look like an excited kid checking out an apartment that daddy is going to buy for her? To me it looks like a kid who doesn't think it's good enough.....

day 11 years, 4 months ago

Sigmund, using your numbers Lawrence home prices are about 70% of the national average and wages are about 75%. Doesn't sound that bad to me.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

The Kommissioners propose impact fees on new construction, then, using a carrot rather than a stick, they offer to waive the new impact fees if the new construction is done in the proper, smart growth fashion: tiny lots, small houses without garages, crowded together around a communal park. Priceless.

dviper 11 years, 4 months ago

Godot, good comment. I think most business people see this as legalized extortion not incentives. Kinda reminds me of an organized crime tactic.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

affordability plays a major role in this article. You must agree that there is no place for accountability in this article.

TruthSeeker 11 years, 4 months ago




The developers will cry in their milk. Boo Hoo. So Sad.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

TruthSeeker, if Boog, Rundle and Schauner get another term, all business and property owners in Lawrence will be crying in their milk.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

I agree, perhaps carrots are the answer, if not maybe a fruit of some type, or even a blend of carrots and pineapple.

But what about the dietary needs of our readers, we need to layout a complete meal for the ordinary people in Lawrence.

But, I do see that the cost of our fruits and vegetables are becoming unaffordable. So comparing such is off the charts.

Sigmund 11 years, 4 months ago

day, those are not my numbers, those are CNN/Money's numbers, minor point. Major point, you are correct there really isn't the crisis in affordable housing in Lawrence that the PLC Kommissioners are desperately trying to pretend there is. Without a crisis the PLC Kommissioners and their counterproductive socialistic solutions are not needed.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

budwhysir, you got me to thinking: I think we have an affordable grocery problem in Lawrence. If you've been in the Merc lately, you know what I mean. The prices there are way above average.

How is it that many of the people that are too poor to buy a house also shop at the Merc?

If I am forced to subsidize the Merc shoppers so they can be homeowners, I should receive a subsidy so I can afford to shop at the Merc.

Of course, once I got the money I would not shop at the Merc. I'd continue to shop at Checkers, Walmart and Aldi, and buy a rental property with the money I save. But, what the hey, the issue is that we all have a right to buy affordable groceries, regardless of what the grocer is charging. Right?

day 11 years, 4 months ago

Sigmund, Sorry for the attribution. Back to the main point. Lawrence is not an expensive housing market. It is in line with national averages when you take median hosehold income and medium home value into account. The reality of the situation is the rest of Kansas is VERY cheap by this simple measure. Lawrence only looks expensive by comparison.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

Good point, day. Affordable housing is available, you just have to look for it.

What is it about Lawrence that draws people who 1) accept jobs for less money than they think they are worth, and then try to get the city to force their employers to pay them more, and, then, 2)expect the taxpayers to help them buy a house they cannot afford?

Reminds me of a woman who marries a guy that she knows has faults, and then spends the rest of her life trying to change him.

LiberalDude 11 years, 4 months ago

Sigmund and day are correct- housing in Lawrence is affordable. Those who think otherwise should check out the real estate prices in places outside of Kansas.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

Godot, there are many possible ways to invest in affordable housing - subsidizing purchasers is only one way. Bowhunter, profits are defined as what is left over after expenses (salaries, overhead, etc.). Businesses could choose to make lower profits and still provide jobs/services.

Also, it seems to me that our society has devolved to a place in which the concept of the "common welfare" has little/no space. You can find that phrase in our Consitution - one of the reasons we formed this country was to provide for the "common welfare". If you think that big businesses left unchecked are looking out for your interests, I think you must be a bit naive. Enron, Halliburton, accounting firms, Wal-Mart, ...

And, personally, I am doing just fine, thank you. My comments are observations/reflections on our society as a whole, which I think could use some improvement.

Have a lovely day :-)

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

jafs:"Also, it seems to me that our society has devolved to a place in which the concept of the "common welfare" has little/no space. "

Sorry, jafs, I do not see where taxing others to finance people who cannot otherwise afford to buy a house, thereby burdening these under-employed people with the debt, taxes, insurance and maintenance issues incumbent with owning a home, has anything to do with the "common welfare."

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

Godot, I've been waiting for you (sorry, I couldn't resist).

My point is that many ideas which are focused towards the "common good" seem to be dismissed as socialist. Also, I do not hear many politicians discussing this idea, nor do I see many acting on it.

I think there is a largely unexamined bias in favor of "individual rights" floating around which ignores clear indications in our Constitution and other important documents that this country was not meant to be one of purely individual interests.

What kind of place Lawrence is to live in is a clear question of our "common welfare" to me. Issues like affordable housing, crime, development, etc. affect the quality of life in Lawrence for all of us. I lived in a neighborhood which was fine when we moved in, and had significantly worsened in a year due to the increase/quality of renters in the neighborhood. Generally speaking, homeowners tend to take better care of their homes and are better neighbors than renters. I know there are exceptions.

Statistically, I've read/heard that our income/cost of living ratio is significantly lower than national averages, which makes sense to me.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

Also, there are many examples of tax revenue being spent on items that do not specifically benefit individuals. For example, public schools offer no direct benefit to those who don't have children, or those who choose to send their children to private schools.

Does this mean that we shouldn't spend tax revenue on public education?

There should be discussion/debate without personal attacks in order to determine what would be in the best interests of our country as a whole. IMHO, of course.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

Are you really concerned for the welfare of the "under-employed" potential home-owner?

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