Lawrence City Commission to consider initiating code changes for smaller homes, other affordable housing
photo by: Chris Conde
City planners could soon begin drafting changes to city code that would allow for more affordable housing options, including dividing existing residential lots to build smaller homes.
As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider initiating a city code amendment process for affordable housing, including a proposal to allow developers or nonprofits to build two smaller homes on a single lot as long as they are permanently designated as affordable housing.
The small homes proposal was initiated by the nonprofit Lawrence Community Housing Trust, formerly Tenants to Homeowners, and has been recommended by the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board. Though city planners are recommending the commission approve the initiation of code amendments, it is requesting permission to conduct a broader review of city code, according to a city staff memo to the commission.
Planning Manager Jeff Crick said that although the city doesn’t have particular code changes in mind, it does not want to narrow its options to only the smaller homes proposal and would like to consider other potential changes that could help create permanent affordable housing.
“We want to keep those options all open as we start doing the research,” Crick said.
The Affordable Housing Advisory Board reviewed the housing trust’s proposal at its meeting last month and voted unanimously to recommend it to the commission. In its proposal, the housing trust states that lot costs have become one of the greatest challenges to affordable development, and allowing affordable housing developers to build more densely using existing lots and infrastructure would reduce costs.
Though the zoning code does not ban smaller lots or smaller homes, there are no properties currently zoned for 3,000-square-foot lots, the city’s smallest lot size. Director of Planning and Development Scott McCullough previously told the Journal-World that putting two smaller homes on an existing residential single-family lot technically constitutes a multidwelling unit under city code and therefore is not allowed.
The commission’s approval Tuesday would be the first step in the text amendment process. Once potential amendments are drafted, they would go to the Affordable Housing Advisory Board, Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and City Commission for consideration.
The City Commission will meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.