Archive for Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Editorial: A plan must precede a tax

Affordable housing is a real concern in Lawrence, but leaders need to develop a strategy before asking residents for money.

September 19, 2017


The city of Lawrence is putting the cart before the horse in asking voters to support a sales tax for affordable housing without a clear plan on how the funds will be spent.

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 housing trust fund. The 0.05 percent tax is one of three sales taxes, totaling 0.55 percent, that will expire in 2019 unless voters choose to renew them. Currently, the 0.05 percent tax is dedicated to bus service expansion, but it would be repurposed for affordable housing projects if approved in November.

The problem is that the city doesn’t seem to have any idea what should be done with the sales tax funds. The city has commissioned a housing study that city officials said will provide the foundation for a plan, but the study will not be completed prior to the Nov. 7 election.

“I guess, on my part, there’s reluctance to say, ‘this is what we would do’ in advance of receiving the information that we’ll get from the housing study,” Vice Mayor Stuart Boley said. “I think that’s a very important piece, and unfortunately the timing doesn’t work for this.”

Boley’s right: The timing doesn’t come close to working.

That’s not to say that affordable housing isn’t a major issue in Lawrence. National health rankings have designated the shortage of such housing as severe in Douglas County. Significant portions of renters and homeowners in Lawrence spend more than 30 percent of their monthly incomes on housing, qualifying them as “cost burdened.” According to U.S. Census data, 13,000 Lawrence households are paying more than they can afford for their home.

Yet, despite those numbers, it is far from clear that the city needs $1 million per year in sales taxes to fund affordable housing projects. In fact, the city made $300,000 available for affordable housing projects earlier this summer, but the Affordable Housing Advisory Board received just two applications totaling $105,000.

With roughly one-third of the city’s households paying more for housing than they can afford, it’s understandable that city commissioners want do something about the issue. But asking voters to support a tax now — before the housing study has been completed and before a solid strategy has been developed — is a recipe for certain failure.


Bob Summers 9 months ago

How devolved and self righteous are government people that an editorial has to be written to proclaim they should have a plan before they confiscate citizens money?

Why do people in government behave this way? Were they not inculcated enough in HS, or properly by the union to have sit-ins when emotionally overwrought?

Carol Bowen 9 months ago

We are looking at two sets of information that do not intersect. An affordable home might be $100,000, while a targeted liveable income might be $22,000. The person making $22,000 would not be able to buy or maintain a $100,000 home. To convince voters, the city should pose some likely scenarios that would work.

David Holroyd 9 months ago

Carol, how many people in a home now are finding that is unaffordable?

Carol. how much more will you pay , are you willing to pay for these programs.?

You are assuming that "affordable housing' translates to buing a house..There are apartments you know and rents are cheaper now than they were 15 years ago. Taxes have gone up and that is a consideration in renting or buying.

But in Lawrence every feel good program isn't good enough.

Maybe the good people of Baldwin , Lecompton, Eudora, wouldn't mind contributing to the dilemna.

Has Stuart Boley revealed how much he has collected for affordable housing from the parking meters at HERE>?

Carol Bowen 9 months ago

David, I had similar thoughts. I just created a simple example to illustrate the dilemma. Does this initiative include rental programs is a good question. I'd like to see some examples of how this money would be used.

It would be a mistake to sterotype the people who need help. There are a lot of good people in Lawrence. Would I be willing to pay for this. Yes, if I can. If I cannot pay the sales tax, then I don't buy. We control the amount we pay.

Carol Bowen 9 months ago

FYI folks, page 55 of the draft comprehensive plan defines affordable housing - both owning and renting

David Holroyd 9 months ago

Why should people from Eudora, Lecompton, Baldwin pay a higher sales tax when they shop in Lawrence they get NO AFFORDABLE housing benefits. Sadly, they cannot vote.. but then can buy elsewhere.

Keep raising the sales tax and they will shop elsewhere. Lawrence wants EVERYONE to pay for something that they often don't benefit from

I do not believe there is a shortage of affordable housing. It is amazing that folks went thru the depresstion and a war and in the 40s found a job and managed to buy a house without HABITAT , section 8, and public housing.

The vote YES signs are already appearing...SAD

It is time to pull the plug on these programs...they will just keep growing...and get more administrative costs with them.

MR. BOLEY how much has been collected from the HERE parking meters for housing?

He is mum on the issue because likely HERE has donated NOTHING.

The commissoners are easy to dupe. Farmer duped them good and the Chamber as well and Leadership Lawrence.

Such fine organizations..

And the mausoluem ....there are a few empty crypts for rent, maybe. but no roof to speak of. FAKE news that was about the roof.

Cille King 9 months ago

"Keep raising the sales tax..." The sales tax is a continuation of a tax already charged, not a new tax.

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