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Lawrence City Commission to consider contract for affordable housing study

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

October 16, 2017

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At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider authorizing a comprehensive housing market study that would provide insight on the city’s affordable housing shortage.

The study would cost about $80,000, and it would collect and analyze data on the city’s housing market and provide recommendations for addressing the shortage.

Assistant City Manager Casey Toomay said the study will provide new sources of data, pulling together information on all factors affecting housing affordability as well as feedback from local organizations and residents.

Grant application

On Friday, the city announced the Affordable Housing Advisory Board is reopening its grant application period for affordable housing projects. Awards of up to $495,000 are available from the city’s affordable housing trust fund, according to the news release. The application period was opened and closed over the summer, but only two applications were received, representing only one-third of the funds allocated this year. More information and a link to download the application can be found on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org. Applications must be submitted by Dec. 1.

“I think it is more thorough and looks at more aspects of housing affordability than just relying on census data,” said Toomay, who is the liaison to the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

Census data indicates that about 40 percent of Lawrence renters and homeowners — or more than 13,000 households — spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, qualifying them as “cost-burdened.” About half of those households spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing, making them severely cost-burdened.

The study will analyze how various factors affect housing affordability, including economic conditions, the student population, and building and land development codes, according to the study proposal. The study will identify current and future housing needs and gaps for specific population subgroups. Ultimately, the study will recommend strategies for addressing the shortage.

When authorization to request proposals for the study was made in March, a city memo stated that there is “a lack of understanding” of the greatest affordable housing needs, making it difficult for the board to develop strategies and recommendations to effectively address them.

Toomay said the study would be used determine strategies to address the City Commission’s goal of ensuring residents have access to safe and affordable housing.

“AHAB’s plan is to be able to use the data to better strategize what initiatives and programs would best achieve that (goal),” Toomay said.

As originally planned, AHAB was to have that data sooner. The timing of the study has been an issue noted by some City Commission candidates due to the upcoming affordable housing sales tax vote.

In November, voters will decide whether to repurpose a 0.05 percent special sales tax that will provide about $1 million annually to the city’s affordable housing trust fund. If approved, the tax would be in place from 2019 to 2029.

The study contract is coming before the commission about six months later than originally stated to the commission. Originally, the study contract was expected to come before the commission in May for the study to be complete in the fall of 2017, according to a city staff memo from March.

It’s now estimated the study will be complete in April 2018.

Toomay said the difference in the study’s timeline is due to limited staff resources at City Hall. After proposals were received, she said negotiating the contract took time and was delayed by other priorities, mainly by the city’s budget process during the summer.

Authorization of the study contract is part of the commission’s consent agenda for Tuesday. If approved, BBC Research & Consulting Inc. would complete the study at a cost not to exceed $78,650, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

Funding for the study will come from the city’s affordable housing trust fund, and could be partially offset by a contribution from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. Toomay said the LBR is one of several entities the city requested participate in funding the study, and that there may be others that come forward with funding.

Also as part of its consent agenda, the commission will receive a progress update on the 2017 goals for the Affordable Housing Advisory Board. The eight goals, developed by the board earlier this year, include increasing local and outside funding for the housing trust and developing a specific allocation plan for trust fund dollars.

In other business:

The commission will receive a presentation about new criminal justice programs in Douglas County, including a house arrest program and behavioral health court. The presentation will be provided by Robert Bieniecki, a representative of the Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

Comments

David Reynolds 6 months ago

This is amazing.

Why are we paying for a study of Affordable Housing? Shouldn't we know the answers, considering the city has a tax issue on the ballot to solve Affordable Housing? I thought the city had an Affordable Housing Board to advise us. Are we saying after all these years the board who is advising us still doesn't know how to solve the problem, yet we are to support a requested tax on the ballot?

If we don't know the answers then this says the city is asking for carte blanch to use the tax revenue how ever they want. This may not be in agreement with what the citizens prefer or not, let alone needed.

This city never fails to amaze, in their arrogance for asking for a tax that is not justified interns of a NEEDED EXPLICIT use.

The city also continues to promote the idea that it is only the developers responsibility for housing being unaffordable, and thus it is up to the developers to solve the problem. Thus ignoring the city's responsibility for raising costs thru all the fees, studies, exactions, delays and law suits over the last 2-3 decades, and the increased costs associated with each listed item over time..

I read a story, in the ljworld, the other day that now there will be a requirement to "Justify" every new development. This is just another cost making housing more unaffordable in Lawrence.

The city seems to have a very short memory. When Rundle & Highburger were on the commission they initiated a study to see if housing paid for itself in the first year. The preliminary study came back saying it basically did. Thus they stopped the study from being completed and thus formalized because that would have codified the issue versus the continued negative agenda against growth. Thus taking the issue off the table.

People forget that housing is the gift that keeps on giving, or the goose laying the golden eggs...each new house generates income in the thousands of dollars each year into perpetuity for the city.

Maybe someday the city will realize that the only real answer to affordable housing is good paying jobs.

Maybe that $80,000 would be better spent on an incentive package that will do some real good and have an immediate payback.

Speaking of incentive packages, those saying incentive packages are corporate welfare only exacerbate the problem of businesses not wanting to settle in Lawrence.

In the most simple terms "Incentives to businesses" are no different than say the sale retails store, and auto mobile company have. The sales are a way of attracting customers. Incentives are a way for cities to attract jobs/opportunities for it's citizens. It's very competitive in the real world of attracting businesses to any given city. Until we wake up and start acting like business people Lawrence will always have a shortage of good jobs.

Lawrence is addicted to studies, how about spending the tax payers money responsibly. Thank you.

Michelle Reynolds 6 months ago

Very well said David! I agree 110% As a realtor working in new construction I listen to builders and developers talk everyday about a new regulation from the city for this or that. Each one will cost more money which is then rolled down to the buyer. The city does need to understand their part in this issue.

I also agree that you can’t solve a problem unless you know the problem to solve. What has our advisory board been doing? Why is this new tax the right way to handle the issue?

Thank you David!

Bob Summers 6 months ago

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

David Reynolds 6 months ago

Something the city of Lawrence & the Affordable Housing Board may want to consider is the successful creation of "Affordable Housing" thru the "Hand" project, located about 24th & Haskell.

In the late '90's the city of Lawrence teamed up with the Lawrence Homebuilders Association, & some banks for creative financing, to create Affordable Housing. The project was named the Hand Project. I forget all of the exact details, but the city thru their funding source paid for the Land, material & labor provided by the Lawrence Home Builders at very reduced costs. The project was a very big success. At the time those homes sold for about $100,000 each.

In 2000 the first home sold, a 1421 sq ft home, resold for $107,500. In 2016 the same size home in the Hand Project sold for $153, 900. If you track inflation from 2000 thru 2016 the home would be worth $149,830, a $4,070 difference. These homes have been held below "Market Level" increases for 16 years. Now that's the kind of success I believe we are all looking for.

I believe it would be wise for the city to consider working with people experienced in their area of endeavor, to try to accomplish their goals versus operating in a negative way demanding "Affordable Housing EXACTIONS", which only drive up the price of housing for others, thus making the housing market in Lawrence that much "MORE UNAFFORDABLE".

If the City Commission, the city Administration, staff & their Affordable Housing Board, would start working "WITH" its constituents versus "AGAINST" them the city might find they can accomplish a lot, especially for the long term.

David Holroyd 6 months ago

Was the HAND project really successful. ? Review it and the occupants and how many lost their homes. Chad can do the story.

Affordable housing is just a way to get votes..An open challenge to anyone to drive with me to Clearview City and see the state of the housing there and the rents you can find online. THEN study the available housing in Lawrence and the rents ...note the difference in quality . Even the crappiest housing in Lawrence is still a better bargain.

Now someone tell me why Clearview City can have occupants and Lawrence housing is quite available.

This Affordable Housing is a ploy to build houses with subsidized rent and all is well.

It is not about housing. Pine Tree finders fee 200 dollars. Free rent at apartments Hawkspointe no application fee , no security deposit...dogs allowed 2 per apartment..CAN be companion dogs...:)

The city commission refuses to accept the fact that there is housing. plenty of it.

If a family or an individual needs shelter...it is available.

We need a commission that can ALL say NO. Mr. Markus isn't helping the situation either along with the Planning Department led by one Dr. McCullough, Proctologist and his staff.

Lean over, let us check you. The plans now under review with slow down development.

I talked with a friend recently and he stated that Lawrence is seedy looking all over town. You see, most people don't realize it but they look at the same seediness every day and it seems normal. Just today I drove thru Hillcrest Shopping center..what a disgrace. A pitiful excuse for a shopping center in the most valuable intersection in town...and that is just one place. Of course there is 19th and Haskell...thank the Planning Department for that screwed up mess,,,when they had a chance to do something really nice with the Dollar General store.

The commission is going to believe and perpetuate the myth of affordable housing.

Where is the list? Who are these people looking for housing and what is their income and how much can they afford? There is NO list.

NO List is available.

Even the mausoleum can't be repaired (not restored) so how can the commission be expected to anything.

Seedy city, seedy neighborhoods, seedy downtown all NOT GOOD!

I I

Mark Kostner 6 months ago

They need to do this. I live in a state, California, where greedy Realtors have raped the public for generations and where most everyone has to have room mates to get by whether they own or rent. Boulder, CO, where I went after Lawrence was the same way. While Lawrence isn't like that, it must make sure it never does. Lately I have seen Lawrence along with Olathe on best places to live and do business lists. If the area booms Lawrence may face a housing shortage. There are also two economic wild cards. First is the airport. If the KC airport terminal fails in 3 weeks, a new airport may be built on the Sunflower site in Johnson County. That's only 10 miles away. The other wild card is a real long shot, Amazon, but if lightning were to strike that would drive housing demand. As I say Lawrence should take steps to make sure housing does not skyrocket like some places especially like out West.

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