Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2017

Two affordable housing projects request city funding; $200,000 in grants still unspoken for

Lawrence Habitat for Humanity construction manager Jonathan Groene chains up a stack of ladders outside two build sites on the 1900 block of East 17th Street. The city's affordable housing advisory board is recommending that the city fund $75,000 to Habitat for Humanity to construct additional homes.

Lawrence Habitat for Humanity construction manager Jonathan Groene chains up a stack of ladders outside two build sites on the 1900 block of East 17th Street. The city's affordable housing advisory board is recommending that the city fund $75,000 to Habitat for Humanity to construct additional homes.

July 13, 2017, 12:23 p.m. Updated July 13, 2017, 5:21 p.m.

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Two affordable housing projects could be bolstered by city funds this year, but the city lacks enough applications to award all the money it set aside to address the issue.

The city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board is recommending the approval of projects from Lawrence Habitat for Humanity and Tenants to Homeowners, which were the only applications received. The board’s recommendation will be sent to the City Commission, which will decide on approval.

Last year, the city helped fund projects from those same organizations, and Vice Mayor Stuart Boley, the commission’s representative on the board, said he sees this year’s recommended projects as continuing that progress. He added that the board needs to learn as it goes along.

“This is kind of an extension of our initial foray into affordable housing with the demonstration project,” Boley said. “I think it’s consistent. There may be a wider spectrum of opportunities for us in the future.”

Two Lawrence Habitat for Humanity homes are currently being constructed on the 1900 block of East 17th Street. The city's affordable housing advisory board is recommending that the city fund $75,000 to Habitat for Humanity to construct additional homes.

Two Lawrence Habitat for Humanity homes are currently being constructed on the 1900 block of East 17th Street. The city's affordable housing advisory board is recommending that the city fund $75,000 to Habitat for Humanity to construct additional homes.

Together, the funding requested for the two projects accounts for only about one-third of the $300,000 the city set aside for affordable housing this year. The board has discussed having another round of applications for the remaining funds later this fall, but it has not taken formal action, according to Casey Toomay, assistant city manger and staff liaison to the board.

Significant portions of renters and homeowners in Lawrence spend more than 30 percent of their monthly incomes on housing, qualifying them as “cost burdened.” About 60 percent of Lawrence renters and about 30 percent of homeowners are cost burdened, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

National health rankings have designated the shortage of affordable housing in Douglas County as “severe.” The city renewed its efforts to address the problem and created the Affordable Housing Advisory Board in 2015. It also reinitiated funding for the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which helps fund affordable housing projects.

Boley said he thinks part of the reason only two applications were submitted was because the board didn’t open the application process until the late spring, which he said isn’t very conducive to construction schedules. He said that next year he expects the process will probably start in September instead.

“That’s my take on it,” Boley said. “We’ll probably learn more as we go forward. I think we need to learn more from people about what may have constrained them from putting forward some proposals.”

The city began accepting applications from projects in June. The application states that eligible projects include acquisition, rehabilitation and development of affordable housing and supportive services. The board made its recommendation to accept the applications this week.

The trust fund is funding with general obligation debt, which restricts the projects to construction projects as opposed to programming. The city’s five-year capital improvement plan includes another $300,000 for the trust in 2018 and $350,000 per year from 2019 through 2022. Voters will be asked in November to repurpose .05 percent of the citywide sales tax — expected to generate about $1 million annually — to fund affordable housing.

If the board decides not to accept additional applications this year, Toomay said the city could adjust the budget in order to use those funds next year.

Toomay provided the following summary of the two recommended projects:

• Lawrence Habitat for Humanity requested $75,000 to construct three homes: one three-bedroom and two five-bedroom homes. The homes will be sold to Habitat for Humanity families with incomes below 60 percent of area median income. The homes will be built on the 1900 block of East 17th Street and will be completed in early 2018. The request of $75,000 represents 15 percent of the total project budget.

• Tenants to Homeowners requested $30,000 to construct six low-cost one- and two-bedroom cottages. The cottages will be built on scattered sites throughout the city and eligible for households earning under 40 percent of median incomes. The homes will be placed in trust to remain permanently affordable. The board’s approval is contingent upon this project receiving necessary land-use approvals.

Comments

Kathleen Christian 3 months ago

Lawrence definitely needs more affordable housing and senior housing that is not an institutional like apartment building or townhomes that are so small you can't fit a normal size sofa in the livingroom. They built new townhomes east of town near K-10 for seniors, but they are so small inside and not one unit has a bathtub (showers only). Apparently thinking these are intended for people on their way out and too old to walk any length of an area. The dining area is just big enough to just fit a TV tray and chair and the livingroom too small for a normal size sofa. A coffee table would take up any walking space. The bedrooms are barely large enough for a bed and a dresser, and the bathroom is too large for just a shower in it. I just hope they build normal size townhomes or apartments that have patio/decks large enough to fit outside furniture on it and not built next to a busy roadway. Who wants to smell fumes all day and night and chance having a car careen into your livingroom or bedroom? Make it affordable, but also make it where there is room enough to have enough comfortable furniture and decor in it to enjoy and not trip over.

Marilyn Hull 3 months ago

If the idea is for the city to leverage other investments, the two local nonprofits that build affordable homes may need to build capacity to take on more projects per year. That requires, at a minimum, doubling or tripling private fundraising for the non-grant-covered portion of costs. Is there a plan for helping these organizations ramp up their fundraising?

Deborah Snyder 3 months ago

The city commission could direct staff to research and propose overlay district incentives for neighborhood associations and new homeowners to consider in buying and rehabing modest housing stock in designated areas of Lawrence. Defining the central, eastern and northern sections of Lawrence, setting aside a fund for a 10-year tax abatement, and/or 1.0% loans backed by the city itself... working with nonprofits and identified remodelers, etc., etc., would guarantee a revival in single-family home ownership.

There are lots of ideas for leveling the opportunities of sf modest housing stock; but it starts with city land use definitions of single family occupancy, which affects school districting, supports like access to groceries, infrastructure like sidewalks and pedestrian street use, and REVITALIZES the neglected neighborhoods of central, east and north Lawrence.

Kendall Simmons 3 months ago

Unfortunately, 4-5 affordable housing homes are currently being torn down on the 300 block of Michigan so that LMH can put in more paved parking spaces. Kinda hard to get more affordable housing if you keep tearing it down (including allowing demolition by neglect).

LMH has needed to build UP for so long, but noooo. They just claim "this will be the last time"...till the next time.

David Holroyd 3 months ago

Deborah Snyder is the new clone of Arly Allen. Deobrah does not like her neighbors.

Deborah, if overlay is such a good idea, then there are "families' in my Mr. Rogers neighborhood that should move! asap! You see Deborah, they are living in multi family zoning. Why would they not move , after all, they are families!

Deborah, what is the benefit of an overlay system? Really now? If you do not like where you live, then move OR maybe you cannot afford to move? Don't know , but do not care.

Speak with Carl, he is very positive and has great connections and undertands how the city and ku work together, maybe he can help you Deborah, since what you want has to involve the city and ku..

Or take up stained glass making with Dorothy and you two can plot out the next unworkable scheme for Lawrence.

One only knows the City Commission is doing a good job of mucking up things. But this Stuart Boley, I wish Chad would interview him and ask how can he talk about affordable housing but yet agrees to raise taxes, water rates, sewer rates, sanitation rates employee wages at City Hall (a falling on the taxpayer outside the realm of city and county and school district employment) Can Chad find out?

Even Mr. Herbert should be asking the same questions since he has rentals ( Matthew, do not let Deborah know,,,she doesn't like landlords" and manages property for other rental owners.

Lawrence is such a small petty town and those in it are so brainwashed to think there is no other place. Don't move....because Brandon Woods, The Arbor, Pioneer Ridge need you soon...to fill up those expensive God's Waiting Rooms aka retirement apartments.

Ever wonder why no one evere built one of those places east of Iowa street? I have wondered that I really have. So folks that want to "retire" could lived in the same Mr. Roger's neighborhood that they worked so hard to keep folks out of..such a caring community..It reallly is..

Run by a Mayor that dares to inqure and a city commission run by a city manager...that's really backwards AND all about to be played by Van Trust...John Menard took them for a ride. And even the Mustard Heir.

Hey Deborah and Dorothy, remember the Mustard Heir.?

Carol Bowen 3 months ago

Hi, David. I'm not sure I follow some of your points, but here are my thoughts.

Overlay districts are a popular urban planning strategy right now. The Centennial neighborhood transformed from homes of modest means to cash cows for realtors. More rent can be charged to students by the head than would be feasible renting to a family. Family housing lost. I am not sure how overlay districts work, but I am listening.

I love college students. Worked with them my entire career, however, living among college students is difficult. Yes, there are always a few exemplary students, but for the most part, they introduce noise and trash. They destroy property, and landlords do not put the same amount of care into rental homes. To top it off, student rentals take up affordable housing in established neighborhoods.

I'm all for the apartment complexes for students that provide the space to do what college kids like to do. Not homes designed for families.

Arley Allen did a lot of good things for Lawrence.

Now, here's a topic we could really get into. If a family moves into one of these affordable homes (I have yet to see a definition of affordable.), will they be able to afford the upkeep and costs of the home. There's a big disparity between incomes and home prices. I'm not sure we should place folks of modest means in this type of situation.

Carol Bowen 3 months ago

Correction. Cash cow for landlords.

Melinda Henderson 3 months ago

FWIW, I was an exemplary student tenant when I lived in Oread my last two years of college! No, really, I was.

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