Archive for Monday, September 25, 2017

Faith group wants Lawrence residents to vote yes on affordable housing sales tax

In this file photo from April 2011, a voter casts his ballot at New York Elementary School.

In this file photo from April 2011, a voter casts his ballot at New York Elementary School.

September 25, 2017


The faith group Justice Matters wants Lawrence residents to vote yes on a special citywide sales tax to support affordable housing.

Purple signs with the words “Vote yes on question 3” have begun popping up in Lawrence to support repurposing a sales tax that will more than triple the funding for affordable housing projects.

Katie Sears, associate organizer for Justice Matters, said the shortage of affordable housing has been affecting Lawrence for at least 25 years with little progress toward a solution.

“That really puts a strain on people, and it is something that is putting a drain on the entire community,” Sears said. “So, we really think this is a way to solve that problem, to lift up our community with no increase in the tax burden.”

Justice Matters is an organization that includes representatives from several local religious congregations. The group advocates for local action on social issues such as affordable housing, incarceration and mental health.

Voters will decide in November whether to repurpose a 0.05 percent special sales tax previously allocated for transit expansion. The tax will provide about $1 million annually to the city’s housing trust fund. The sales tax question is the third on the ballot, which also includes renewals of sales tax to support city infrastructure and transit service.

One of the main criticisms of the affordable housing sales tax is that it disproportionately burdens people with low-income and that a more progressive and equitable funding mechanism like property tax would be a more appropriate funding source.

Though Sears said Justice Matters acknowledges that sales taxes are regressive, she said if property taxes were increased to help fund affordable housing, it would further raise housing costs. She also said she thinks voters should keep the tax in perspective, noting that the 0.05 percent tax amounts to 50 cents on every $1,000 spent.

“We can spend more time waiting for a more perfect solution to present itself and in the meantime people are still suffering,” Sears said. “The other thing I would say to that is this is a very small amount of money that we’re talking about, per person, per family.”

The latest Census numbers estimate about 13,000 of the city's homes and apartments don't fit the definition of affordable. Those households pay more than 30 percent of their incomes toward housing and utility costs, qualifying them as “cost-burdened.”

Another criticism of the tax has been the lack of a specific spending plan for the millions in proceeds, but Sears said she thinks the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board has the expertise necessary.

If the sales tax is approved, it will be in place from 2019 to 2029. The funds generated — about $10.5 million over the 10-year period — would go toward the existing housing trust fund, which AHAB helps oversee by ordinance. The board provides recommendations for how money in the trust should be spent, which will go to the City Commission for consideration.

The three sales taxes are voted on individually and total 0.55 percent. They are projected to generate $116 million for infrastructure, transit and affordable housing over the 10-year period. If not reapproved by voters, the taxes will automatically expire.

The sales tax questions will be part of the Nov. 7 ballot, and city leaders have said the City Commission would have the chance to modify the questions and put them to voters again should they fail.


Melinda Henderson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Nobody has really asked this question yet: How many new affordable housing units will this $10.5 million be able to create in ten years?

Mark Jakubauskas 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Poorly written. Methinks the reporter has a bias ? Cite your sources: "One of the main criticisms".... " Another criticism ..." Who said that ? Who offered those criticisms ? Be specific now, show your work. Otherwise:

Now, Rochelle, go back to point zero and start over. Provide and examine both sides of the argument (pro and con) for and against the use of the sales tax to support affordable housing. Examine the fundamental premises; test their validity; cite your sources.

Rochelle Valverde 8 months, 3 weeks ago


Those criticisms come from the article linked in sidebar titled, "Local group wants Lawrence residents to vote against $116M citywide sales tax renewal." All sources are cited. There are three other articles there you might read as well if you are looking for more information.


Jason Wiggy 8 months, 3 weeks ago

2 Questions: What does the "housing trust fund" actually do?

Why should residents have to provide affordable housing?


RJ Johnson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Ya, we want to be just like Topeka!! Crime stats and all!

Bob Smith 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If they want to contribute more money to the cause, let Faith Matters take up a collection. Leave the rest of us out.

Michelle Reynolds 8 months, 3 weeks ago

So, we want to add a higher sales tax when people shop. So when builders purchase goods to construct homes it will cost more. Hmmm! That doesn't make sense.

Deb Engstrom 8 months, 3 weeks ago

What should happen is that every landlord should set aside one apartment out of every 10 to be either transitional housing for homeless or greatly reduced rent with subsidies. That would go a long way to eliminate the problem. Still need to figure out support for poor rental history and credit checks that are roadblocks to many people.

Megan Green Stuke 8 months, 3 weeks ago

This isn't an additional tax. It's a tax we are already paying (that amounts to 50 cents per 1000 dollars spent). It is just that we can reallocate this particular tax to affordable housing, and let the folks who work in the field of homelessness and family support apply for the funds to help those they work with in creative and sustainable ways. It has my yes vote.

Might I add: affordable housing will SAVE taxpayers money. Families that have safe, stable housing that is within their budget rely less on many other social services including police, hospitals, and schools. This is a wise investment.

Richard Njoroge 8 months, 3 weeks ago

people keep in mind most of us are a paycheck away from seeking affordable housing. some families who are now homeless may have lost jobs.or whatever case may be. keep in mind this money we already paying taxes . sad to say the way most people see it if is not affecting me or my familly i care less . vote yes if you think this make sense. if not vote no.

Kevin Kelly 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Stop turning our single family homes into student rentals.

Bryan Bowen 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I may be wrong about this because I'm no math whiz but I don't think .05 of 1000. is .50. I think it's 50.00. Per 100. it would be 5.00. As I said I could be wrong so if someone else is better at math wants to check it out that would be good.

Thank you

Beth Ann Bittlingmayer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryan - You are absolutely correct that .05 (5%) of $1,000 is $50 This has not been well explained in the article or otherwise. Here's the math: .05 x .01 = .0005 and that is 50 cents of every $1,000 What we are really talking about is a 5% share of an existing 1% tax

Beth Ann Bittlingmayer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

In reviewing the article it looks to me like the 50 cents per $1,000 is currently earmarked for transit expansion and we are asked to vote on switching it to be earmarked for affordable housing. That would imply that we are already paying the tax anyway.

Bob Smith 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Is Faith Matters a tax-exempt organization? If so, they've got no skin in the game.

William Cummings 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Are you going to apply that same logic to other tax exempt organizations such as the major political parties?

Bob Smith 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The major political parties haven't chimed in on this issue.

Richard Njoroge 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Bob smith you are right we are people of faith as well as community people who are individually paying taxes as well .

Richard Njoroge 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We are only focusing on poor people and not thinking about elderly people who depend on social security only . They also fall in the same category in need of affondable place to live

Deborah Snyder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Kevin Kelly has a valid point, IMHO. And it's an issue that was core to the Centennial Neighborhood Association's founding, and spearheaded the movement to restrict the numbers of unrelated renters taking up single-family housing across Lawrence, in the mid-90's.

We tried to get the city's attention to tackle the unprecedented numbers of modest housing stock being bought up by investors from as far away as Hong Kong (!) to no avail.

With the cooperation of our neighborhood associations, all the city has to do is designate a Preservation Overlay District of modest housing that restricts the number of unrelated renters to two; establish a homesteader fund that offers tax abatements for owner-occupied housing currently used as a rental, and low- or zero-cost loans for rent-to-own assessed value on properties on properties up for sale by landlords, retirees, etc. in those overlay districts. There is no end to ideas on addressing homelessness with a fund set up by taxpayers and open to such suggestions.

Deborah Snyder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

....but if this tax goes only to one or two groups, and focuses only on new housing construction, then "no," I will not support a continuation of the worst, most regressive sales tax structure up for renewal in November.

Deborah Snyder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If East Lansing, Michigan could do this, so can we.

David Holroyd 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The city leaders aka city commissioners are not very bright. There is a way to raise revenue.

You see, only recently I drove by Pine Tree townhomes...and saw a sign that said they offered a $200 finders fee.

The city surely has a list of folks wanting affordable housing as well as Justice Matters has a list. After all there has to be a list.

Sell the list to Pine Tree townhomes and the city or Justice Matters gets the finding fee. Then they (city and Justice Matters) can contribute that money to the Affordable Housing Fund.

btw, Why hasn't the Journal World interviewed Mr. Stuart Boley to find out how much money has been collected from the parking meters surrounding HERE?

Why is it a secret?

Furthermore, with the varying rents at the many apartment complexes I would surmise that the complexes would offer a finders fee as well. Sell the list to those places as well.

Where is the list of people for the affordable housing...does it exist? Mr. Schumm might even look at it to find a client for his Affordable Condo. He could provide a finder's fee as well.

Mr. Boley needs to inquire or does he dare because it might result in disappointment :)

Joe Herynk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The grand total of these "very small amounts of money" have created the highest tax burden of any city in the state. To advocate for affordable housing while maintaining or increasing our tax burden is based on hope rather than reality. Until our city commissioners learn to better control expenses, affordable housing will remain an allusive pipe dream.

I find it ironic that the group advocating for affordable housing also advocate maintaining or increasing the tax burden on others while they pay no property tax on their buildings.

Cille King 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Joe Herynk, stop telling lies. Lawrence does not have the highest sales tax in Kansas. A quick check shows that Kansas City, Overland Park and Topeka all have higher sales taxes. That was 3 of the 4 cities that I checked.

Patrick Wilbur 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Well as always the truth is in between in that pesky gray area. Lawrence does not have the highest tax (or sales tax) burden in the state. Lawrence IS in the 90th percentile in sales tax burden when compared to all other cities in Kansas. Approval of the 10-year ballot proposals would keep us in that area. Even if all three ballot questions were to fail we would still be in the 57th percentile in regard to sales yax burden.

Bob Summers 8 months, 3 weeks ago

People in government say it's illegal to feed the bears in parks because it makes them lazy. It makes them beg for food. It makes them dangerous if they do not get what they think they deserve.

Why do these people in government promote the feeding and the housing of humans?

Ken Lassman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You can't make the distinction between feeding a bear and a hungry child? Wow.

Ron Holzwarth 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You don't seem to be aware of the reason for not feeding the bears. It's because if it's done, the bears lose their fear of humans, and associate finding food with being close to them. Then, it follows that there will be more bear attacks. This has been demonstrated to be true by historical bear attacks.

But then, maybe you do have a point, and there shouldn't be any help for poor people because you are rich, and the poor, such as older people on Social Security or disabled people, deserve only their low income and living standards.

Joe Herynk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Ville King, there is a difference between tax burden ( combination of all taxes) and sales tax. At no time did I stated Lawrence had the highest sales tax. Please refer to my original post. In addition, please list all cities in our state that have a higher tax burden and lower wages than Lawrence. Thank you

David Holroyd 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Where is the list of people needing affordable housing?

Who has it?

Are the names on the list employed people, single or families? Handicapped or not?

Where is the list? Is there a list?

Richard Heckler 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I want the tax voted down then revised:

=== I respectfully request the sales tax be absolutely dedicated to the following :

0.05 percent sales tax for transit

0.3 percent sales tax for affordable housing

0.2 percent sales tax for Complete Streets/Walkable Community/Safe routes to school.

This eliminates helter skelter spending of any of the tax dollars thus we see accomplishments.

Call for a special vote. The end product would more than pay for the cost of a special vote. A worthwhile endeavor.

The community also might want to think about pushing a no sales tax on groceries or no more than 1%.

How many units of affordable housing can get produced depends largely who is building them and at what profit margin etc etc etc.

Richard Heckler 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I prefer the affordable housing tax go to those who have specialized in such projects for some time such as Tenants to Homeowners. I do not support this tax going into housing or apartment developments. Low income residents cannot afford a home that is NOT energy efficient throughout. Using less costly construction practices is not the answer.

Tenants to Homeowners provides a high quality project designed to keep the units affordable on the long term with their energy efficient designs and construction materials.

If a tenant cannot afford the utilities and such how is an affordable home actually affordable?

Deborah Snyder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

No one disputes the efficacy of either organization, Mr. Heckler. At least, I don't not.

But limiting the funding provided by a regressive tax of affordable housing to just those two organizations is not going to adequately serve the needs for the almost complete lack of modest housing stock in this city!

City Planners have to include the viability of modest housing stock for owner-occupied preservation. The city's Charter establishes it's Right to designate (And Protect) Zoned Areas for single home ownership for the welfare of ALL it's citizens, rich and poor. And most importantly, it has the right to restrict conduct of that housing insofar as land-use is concerned! When a Plat is presented to the city for a proposed type of land-use (single-family owner-occuoied, single-car, 25-foot setbacks, sidewalks, etc., etc.,) the city establishes the Rules by which that proposal is made. When a developer's plan indicates single-family housing, he/she is NOT intending for the majority of that housing to be presented as rentals. Yet, that plat presents what public, tax-paid infrastructures (sewage/water/storm drainage/curbing/street lights and so on) it needs to provide, maintain and continue building around.

THAT kind of home-owned modest housing stock tends to be in the immediate donut-hole around the urban core, which expands in concentric rings as the city expands. We All Know This!

THAT modest housing stock, in THOSE modest housing neighborhoods, has undergone a complete transition in land-use to a very different kind of neighborhood than what was established and agreed upon when it was built. And thus, modest housing, which DOES appeal to modest wage earners, has disappeared, leaving the working poor with TWO choices in Lawrence.

The city can inventory its existing modest housing stock in total, and determine under what percentage designated neighborhoods under siege by Investors and establish what East Lansing Michigan did.

It's battle-tested legal and smart growth tested, Mr. Heckler. And it doesn't need a funnel of regressive tax money to make it happen.

Richard Heckler 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I say let's go for a reduction in property assessment values = tax reduction throughout Lawrence and go for a no tax on groceries = another tax reduction throughout Lawrence.

USD 497 is exempt because state government is NOT acknowledging their responsibility.

And stop awarding preferential tax abatements. So more pay their fare share.

David Holroyd 8 months, 3 weeks ago

There is NO list!

There has been NO money contributed from HERE parking meters!

There has been no roof fixed at the Mausoleum!

There is being NOTHING done of consequence from the Commission!

The manager is doing NOTHING to benefit the residents of Lawrence and taxpayers of such.

Richard, the county will not lower the valuations because they like FAKE values.

Lawrence is DEAD.....Affordable housing doesn't apply to current tenants and homeowners.

It is a FAKE term meaning nothing, a feel good term Those who think there is not "affordable housing" need to get out and look around at all that is for rent and compare it to the housing at Clearview City and there rental prices.

People with no place to live can be a renter for a while

How did many people manage after WWII to rent, buy, build housing and they came from a depression as well. They WORKED! No Habitat, no Affordable Housing program. no Sales tax to pay for housing.

The Justice Matters members can take it upon each of themselves to provide housing. It is a feel good group!

Sales tax NO!

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