Archive for Monday, January 17, 2011

City of Lawrence wins nearly $500,000 grant to help build more affordable rental units

January 17, 2011


The city of Lawrence has won a nearly $500,000 housing grant to help build more affordable rental units in the community.

If new foreclosure numbers out of the Douglas County Courthouse are any indication, the timing is good. Foreclosures in 2010 — through November — are up 77 percent compared with the same time period a year ago, according to a new report from the Douglas County Appraiser’s office. Completed foreclosures through the first 11 months of the year totaled 217, according to the report.

As more people lose ownership of their homes, it also has become problematic for some tenants to find affordable rental units.

“Finding a unit in Lawrence can be difficult,” said Margene Swarts, assistant director for the city’s development services division. “The rule of thumb is that you don’t pay more than 30 percent of your gross income on housing and utilities. In Lawrence that isn’t much for some. I believe there are a lot of folks in Lawrence who are rent burdened.”

The city will receive $475,000 through the state’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The city plans to partner with Lawrence-based Tenants to Homeowners to build at least four new rental units.

Rebecca Buford, executive director for Tenants to Homeowners, said her organization is looking for specific locations. The grant money may be used to buy two vacant pieces of ground for new units and to buy two homes that are currently on the foreclosure market. Those homes then could be renovated into rental units.

Buford said she’s hoping to build two or three-bedroom units. She hopes rents on the new units will be in the $650 to $750 per month range.

“There are a lot of apartments for students in that range,” Buford said. “But I think it is fair to say that what might be a good rental for a student may not be a good rental for a family. If you have a 2- year-old, there are some issues that are a lot bigger deal to you than if you’re a college student.”

Tenants for the new units will have to meet state and federal law to moderate income guidelines. At least one of the units will have to reserved for a family that is 50 percent or below the median income for Douglas County. The others will have to be 80 percent or below the median.

The grant is the second major dose of funding for affordable rental projects the city has received in the last two years. In 2009, the city received about $560,000 in grant money. The city partnered with Tenants to Homeowners and Douglas County to build five new rental units in the 1100 block of Rhode Island Street.

Tenants to Homeowners also is working on a multimillion dollar renovation of 20 affordable rental units formerly managed by an offshoot of Independence Inc. Tenants to Homeowners has taken over Independence Inc. Accessible Residential Options, a housing program that provides handicapped-accessible rental units.

The program has rental units along Yale Road near Iowa Street and also on East 21st Street Terrace. Tenants to Homeowners has received $2.2 million in low income housing tax credits to help fund the project. Buford said plans call for the 1980s-era units to be completely refurbished and outfitted with energy-efficient appliances.


sad_lawrencian 7 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence does not need more apartments and other rental housing, especially if the "powers that be" are catering to low-income people. We have enough crappy, low-cost housing options in this city already: the average rental rate for a two-bedroom unit on Redbud Lane & 25th is around $400.00 a month. Spend this money, or a matching equivalent, where it's really needed: cleaning up those properties on Redbud.

Chelsea Kapfer 7 years, 4 months ago

I absolutely, 100% agree with your statement. Well put.

CreatureComforts 7 years, 4 months ago

So the leaders of this city are really THAT out of touch, huh? Wow...

misseve 7 years, 4 months ago

Rent should be 30% median income but they are wanting rent to be around $650 to $700... so they are thinking that these low income persons actually make enough money to pay that much in rent? I make enough to pay that much, I am not considered low income and don't want to pay that much in rent and still have enough to pay all the other bills and feed the kid and pay for my car. Someone PLEASE get them back into reality!

booyalab 7 years, 4 months ago

The article makes it sound as though this is a strictly charitable endeavor. So who's collecting the rent revenue?

xclusive85 7 years, 4 months ago

there was a mention of it in town talk.

xclusive85 7 years, 4 months ago

sorry, should have been a reply to booyalab.

Mr_B9 7 years, 4 months ago

Check it out folks, more of your hard earned tax dollars being redistributed. We go to work, the feds take our money and give it away so some entity can profit. Not to mention, the licensed contractors that will feed off this as well. Why is this the taxpayers responsibility. This is absurd. Shame on the government. Imagine, if we all belonged to the "Tax Payers Union" we could simply go on strike and end this abuse in a matter of hours.

Mr_B9 7 years, 4 months ago

Let me know when you hard working taxpayers start getting your "Thank You" cards from the City of Lawrence.

homechanger 7 years, 4 months ago

Another waste of my confiscated money by the fed and state. When does the revolution begin?

sherbert 7 years, 4 months ago

The city 'WON' $475,000. - Wow! This isn't lottery money, this is tax money that was paid by other citizens who can probably barely afford to pay their own living expenses! Anyway, wouldn't $475,000. go a lot farther in just helping people pay their rent than in building 4 homes.

Bladerunner 7 years, 4 months ago

Don't forget the money we are paying a city employee to apply for this grant. Whose job is that I wonder? What if any, are their other duties? The feds don't just hand this money out without our asking for it.

chevybear 7 years, 4 months ago

where in lawrence are u going to get a job where $650 to $750 isnt at least one pay check????.Lawrence is so clueless

SeaFox 7 years, 4 months ago

Agreed. The problem isn't a lack of housing in Lawrence, it's a lack of AFFORDABLE housing. That wont change till we see either an increase in the average paycheck or a forced decrease in rental prices.

vegetablegirl 7 years, 4 months ago

Plenty of "affordable housing". For example; Laurel Glen has clean, spacious apartments that rent for less than $500. The buildings are well maintainted and tenants are held to a standard that makes the environment safe and appealing, even for children!

realfakeplant 7 years, 4 months ago

Laurel Glen also has crooked staff that do everything they can to take money from their low-income tenants. The tenants are less "held to a standard" and more forced to have their apartments "inspected" on a quarterly basis and then given fines if not in "compliance". I would rather live on the street than to have no privacy, or rights and be harassed by the incompetent staff.

baby_girl 7 years, 4 months ago

they have income guidelines. not just anybody can live there.

realfakeplant 7 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence has the worst rental housing market I have ever seen. The landlords in this town are bordering on evil at best. (Do landlords forget that tenants are simply trying to have a home?)

Recently the Douglas County Housing Authority stopped taking applications for it's housing assistance programs because the wait time for new applicants exceeded two years. Two years! Building four houses is a laughably weak use of this money.

baby_girl 7 years, 4 months ago

since when in this day and age is $650-$750 a month cheap for rent? Are you serious?? I'm sure that won't include rent PLUS utilities. Seriously, with gas zoomed up to $3.15 a gallon isn't that reflection enough on what's being outputted from a person's income? And $650-$750 a month out of a person's income when they might be making under $10/ is ridiculous.

Clark Coan 7 years, 4 months ago

The official Living Wage in Lawrence as calculated by City Hall is less than $11/hour for a family of three. That means rents have to be $560 or less for two bedroom apts. to be affordable.

Obviously, wages need to be raised. Santa Fe, NM has a minimum wage of $9.85/hour. Lawrence should have one at $10/hour indexed to the cost of living in the city. This would boost other wages.

ajingler26 7 years, 4 months ago

I think that before you all look at the bad side of this program, maybe you should look at section 8 housing. You all want to complain about something, now that is something to complain about. Section 8 Housing only does 30% of income and sometimes that means that people are getting off with only paying $100 A month or less for rent for a 3 bedroom. I am proud to admit that I am a resident with Tenants to Homeowners. It is such a wonderful program. How often can you find a 3 bedroom HOUSE in the city of lawrence for less than $900. What some of you don't realize is that these homes are built brand new or they are renovated. and they are VERY nice homes. Better than section 8 homes. Also, what it failed to mention is that by being with tenants to homeowners for a while, you have the opportunity to own a home through them. I think that you all should do your homework on this program and look up Tenants to Homeowners online. Then maybe you will think twice about your comment. Tenanats to Homeowners is not just about LOW INCOME, which seems to be the main focus for some reason, it is about helping people have affordable but NICE housing as well as allowing them an opportunity to get caught up on bills so that if the tenant has the dream of buying a home, then it can be possible with TTH. So, maybe u should learn more about the program before you pass judgement. I am sure you hate that when people do it to you.

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