Archive for Monday, February 8, 2010

Saving’ Oread

The idea of saving large, older homes in Oread neighborhood by allowing more residents in rental properties is a questionable approach.

February 8, 2010


In discussing the possibility of changing regulations on boarding houses in Lawrence, city officials are taking the tried-and-true decision-making approach of setting out the pros and cons of the matter.

After an initial look at the proposal last Tuesday, city commissioners referred it back to the city-county planning commission for more study. That is reasonable course considering that, for the Oread Neighborhood, the cons of this plan seem to outweigh the pros.

The change would exempt homes in multi-family-zoned areas of the Oread neighborhood from limits that allow no more than four unrelated people to live in a single house. Oread, which lies mostly east of the Kansas University campus, has a high number of rental properties that serve the student population.

One of the key motivations behind the plan is to preserve large, older homes in the neighborhood by allowing landlords to increase the number of tenants and, therefore, the amount of income they receive from the property.

Among other pros is increasing housing density in the area, providing more housing in a highly desirable student location and providing incentives for landlords to better maintain their properties.

On the con side, however, are issues about parking, trash and noise, the possibility that houses will be enlarged in ways that aren’t compatible with the neighborhood and that expanded occupancy would lead to more “party houses” in the area. Another very valid concern of Oread residents is that increased income from these properties won’t necessarily translate into better upkeep by landlords. More people in the houses naturally will result in more wear and tear, which may or may not be addressed by landlords.

“Demolition by neglect” is a big problem in the neighborhood. Sometimes landlords are financially better off simply allowing houses to deteriorate to the point that demolition is the only reasonable course of action, razing the structures and using or selling the land as the site for a more profitable structure.

City officials acknowledge that, while they may be able to address concerns about inappropriate house additions, trash and parking, issues related to party houses and neglectful landlords may be tougher to manage.

Oread residents are justified in their concern that the proposed regulation changes may further erode owner-occupied housing in the neighborhood. “Saving” large older houses in the neighborhood by allowing them to be packed with even more rental residents seems like a risky proposition that city officials should study further before moving forward.


John Hamm 7 years, 10 months ago

"landlords to increase the number of tenants and, therefore, the amount of income they receive from the property." Yea, that's a real good idea. Let them make more per month from students and they still won't put a single dime back into the house! "Demolition by neglect" was invented in the Oread neighborhood by landlords! You want to "save" Oread start inspecting for unrepaired, unkempt housing!

grimpeur 7 years, 10 months ago

Inspections first. Housing must meet code for systems, number of occupants, and structure BEFORE exemptions are granted. Yearly inspections thereafter. If you're getting special allowance as a landlord, then special inspections are not onerous.

Limit parking, since these tenants won't need cars to walk to campus. Car traffic and overflow parking (in addition to overcrowding) are the bane of this neighborhood.

Really too bad about Oread. Could be a great neighborhood if not for the "demolition by neglect" that is allowed and the violations that are tacitly permitted. KU can build housing on west campus. You know they're drooling over the possibility of snapping up more Oread properties.

There are probably several Oread property owners hoping to let their houses go to crap until they can cash out their firetraps for a check from Bernadette; we need to make sure this trend is reversed, not hastened.

Rokchalk 7 years, 10 months ago

Wanted: Less regulations and smaller government.....allow free market to dictate. Give the landlords the freedom to do what they want or you will see more neglect. Who is going to invest in something that is tied up in red tape.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

You've got to be kidding!

Most landlords in town do the barest minimum to keep up their properties, especially if they rent to students.

What's needed is more regulation - higher standards that are vigorously enforced by the city without requiring tenants to make complaints first.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 10 months ago

Pave paradise and put up a parking lot; we can always use more parking near campus. Sad, really; very sad.

Rokchalk 7 years, 10 months ago

The market will dictate who succeeds and who fails. I for one would not purchase or invest in a property that is subject to overly-burdensome regulations. Throw out the definition of a family, get rid of historic standards, parking requirements, dumpster requirements, etc.. Face it folks, the Oread area is and always will be for dense populations of students.

Rokchalk 7 years, 10 months ago

The last boarding house cost the developer nearly a million bucks! He had to fight and beg the City and neighborhood organization to do it. We should be begin' people like this to invest in the area. But no, we want to scare them away with red tape and appease the 5 members of the neighborhood association. Geez!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

These ideas make a lot of sense to city commissioners who will not be living anywhere near them. So long as the developers keep putting their favorite people in office these boarding houses will not show anywhere near the privileged few.

This is not a problem only for OREAD neighborhood. If you think boarding houses cannot show up in other neighborhoods.... guess again. All neighborhoods need to come out against this.

Oread is being used to get the codes in place. Once the codes are in place the barn doors are wide open. Simple as that!!!!

geekin_topekan 7 years, 10 months ago

"...the possibility that houses will be enlarged in ways that aren’t compatible with the neighborhood..." ++++ Umm.. you mean like that behemoth that rises above the once familiar and revered corner at 12th street? Where were the concerns when that was in the planning stages?

Rokchalk 7 years, 10 months ago

The only reason there is even debate is the City calls my house of (6) related persons a single family home. In the Oread, a house of 5 or more is a "boarding house". Although most of the homes in the Oread have more than 4 bedrooms, only 4 people can live there by rule. That is stupid. Whoever invested in a 5,6,7 or more bedroom house now has the financial challenge of making payments with occupancy at a max of 4 persons. Keep in mind that most of these houses where purchased prior to the rule change. The ony way to remedy this is to change its use to boarding house, and that is nearly impossible due to the fairly recent adoption of new parking, historic preservation and sprinkler system standards. It's a lot more complicated than all of you can imagine. It's nearly impossible, that's why the commission is looking at it. Count on more bulldozing if the occupancy limits aren't relaxed or boarding houses aren't approved. Nobody will want to own these places if they can't make the payments.

Sunny Parker 7 years, 10 months ago

Candice Davis, Carol vontersch, to name a few. Marci Francisco...maybe...not sure about her.

oonlybonly, why do you care what landlords charge for rent? Why on earth would that be any of your business?

The boarding houses cost millions of dollars to renovate. They are beautiful when completed.

If the whiners don't like it and live it in! Problem solved!

OreadHawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Most houses in the Oread are rental homes, call em duplexes tri-plexe, boarding houses whatever. If the home owners do not want these big houses to become rental, may be they should up-grade and get one of these big houses and sell their home to a family, I am positive there are plenty of people who would be willing to purchasing at an affordable price

1029 7 years, 10 months ago

It would be cool if one of those big 6-bedroom houses was turned into a mixed-use building with like 4 apartments and then turn one of the bedrooms into a business like a Jimmy John's or Radio Shack or something (pretty much anything--floral shops, shoe stores, Blockbuster, etc). Not only would this be really cool and revolutionary, but it would also would promote community in the neighborhood because everybody would be walking around in other people's houses and hanging out i all day long. Also, it would be cool not to have to remember house numbers. Instead of being like "It's 1234 Tennessee, apartment 1", you could be like "It's the one with the Subway. Apartment 1.". This plan would really put Lawrence more on the map of progressiveness and originality, and from my point of view it doesn't appear to have any downside whatsoever.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

Boarding houses may decrease the value of property in the neighborhood.

In public policy debates, moreover, decision makers often lack information about how their choices will affect property value.

Beth Ennis 7 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if anyone who is commenting on here lives in our neighborhood? I am one of the folks who live in the Oread neighborhood. I'm on the edge of it and have a fairly equal amount of owner occupied neighbors vs student tenant neighbors. My biggest complaint is that the landlords don't do anything to these properties. One of our neighbors obviously doesn't abide by the codes as there are 7-8 cars parked outside on the street and in the driveway all the time. A few years ago, the tenants took down the fence and turned the side yard into a parking lot. We had to call the property owner and the city to get them to stop doing that. This year's batch of students actually did some yard work and cleaned up the yard, which had trees totally overgrowing and blocking the sidewalk. We have met our student neighbors every year and have always loaned out our lawnmower, weed eater, etc to them. We reach out to them, and when they get too loud, if it's possible, we ask them ourselves to quiet down before calling the cops. Sometimes due to the early morning hour or weather, we just call the cops. I like having students around, but I don't like the slum lords who keep taking that money, but never ensure the sidewalks are shoveled, lawns are mowed, houses are painted, etc. I would love to see more of these homes turned into single family, however, if the property is sold as a rental, it's based off of the amount of rent that can be collected. If it were selling as a single family, it would be much cheaper. I don't know the fix, but lessening the regulations isn't the answer. I for one would love to meet with these land lords and try and work things out, but I've sure never been offered that opportunity.

Beth Ennis 7 years, 10 months ago

wilbur, zoning means nothing in this town. There are 2 4 unit apt building (1970's era actual apt units, not a house) directly behind us. The city says that they are zoned single family. How did someone build 2 4 unit apartment buildings on a single family lot? Go figure. Apparently the city doesn't even abide by their own codes.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago


The problem of landlords who don't maintain their property is certainly not caused by regulations.

It's caused by greed, a lack of concern about tenants' rights, and no consideration for one's neighbors.

The city will inspect properties and cite landlords, but tenants must complain first. This is unlikely - it will cause friction with one's landlord. Also, the remedies available are not good enough - the city cannot force landlords to make necessary repairs - they can only shut down the rental, leaving tenants in the unenviable position of having to move.

And, of course, the housing code for rentals in Lawrence is pathetically inadequate.

The code should be more adequate to ensure a decent place to live, inspections should be done without tenants having to complain, and the city should be able to simply do any necessary repairs and make landlords pay for them, or force them to do the repairs, allowing tenants to remain in their homes.

OreadHawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Property values are affected by the quality of the neighborhood and the demand of people wanting to buy houses. These large rental houses by campus are quiet nice looking in my opinion and the demand is also high. These large houses are actually helping the property values of the area. The Oread has very few owner occupied houses left, over the years many owners have sold to investors and simply moved to a better location. I think that it would be fair to ask why this association keeps receiving the kind of funds that it does with such few members and having little effect on the quality of life for the residents. The city should consider redirecting funds to different neighborhood that could use the funds correctly and have real issues.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

Not if many students have plenty of money, and don't care about the condition of their housing, which seems to be the case in Lawrence.

And, when property values are inflated, resale is not an issue either.

Have you looked for any rentals in Lawrence recently? It is almost impossible to find a decent place in a decent neighborhood with a decent landlord.

Greed doesn't generally translate into keeping up your property - it usually translates into doing as little as possible and pocketing more of the rent.

We had a landlord who didn't want to fix the front porch, where we had snakes coming in and out. Just one example.

Most landlords seem to take a very short-term approach - any money out is less money for them in the short term.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

And, before I get the predictable "If they don't care, etc." some of us do care, and this atmosphere hurts those who do want a decent place to live.

Also, many students (young people) may be unaware of a variety of problems with housing, since they haven't lived on their own for very long.

Again, if the majority of landlords don't maintain their property adequately, it becomes harder for those of us who are more aware to find places to live.

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