City leaders review affordable housing recommendations; plan to address issues coming soon
photo by: Mike Yoder
Now that the city has more details about its shortage of affordable housing — and will soon have about $1 million per year to address it — the conversation has begun regarding what aspects of the problem the city should focus on.
As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission reviewed the recently completed housing market analysis and resident survey that details housing issues for different income and demographic groups. The study, completed by BBC Research & Consulting, provides recommendations for improving the housing situation in Lawrence based on those findings.
“We recommended that the city set goals, potentially in different affordability categories or attached with different solutions, to monitor over the next five and 10 years,” BBC Managing Director Heidi Aggeler told the commission.
The consultant is recommending the city work to address five main affordable housing issues: the shortage of affordable rental housing for low-income residents; the shortage of affordable homes for purchase for low- and moderate-income residents; the shortage of accessible housing for disabled residents; the shortage of supportive housing programs; and the poor condition of some homes and rentals.
The study found that about 5,200 Lawrence households are cost-burdened, defined as those who spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs and utilities. Upkeep of rentals may also be an issue, as survey results indicate that 2,950 renters report that their units are in poor or fair condition.
The study indicated that at least 2,000 households that earn $35,000 to $75,000 per year and are currently renting and would like to buy a home, but have few options to choose from. In addition, although there is a surplus of affordable rentals for those households, the study found that for households making less than $24,999, the supply of affordable rental units has generally decreased from 2000 to 2016.
The report provided a plan, called the “success dashboard,” to address those needs, but Affordable Housing Advisory Board Chair Shannon Oury told the commission that the board would be further discussing and developing a specific plan of action. Oury also noted that because the board will be receiving applications or creating proposals for affordable housing projects, it also depends on the responses.
“It’s our intent to bring back to you a more refined dashboard, how we’re going to try to accomplish some of those things,” Oury said. “And also, the final piece of that work would be the creation of a matrix on how we are going to evaluate (requests for proposals) and proposals that are brought to us, and what we’re specifically going to be looking for.”
In part, the report provides the following recommendations regarding housing issues noted in the report. Some recommendation have goals for the short-term, defined as one to five years, and the long-term, defined as five to 10 years.
• Stabilize the rental gap for non-student renters earning less than $25,000 per year. Create 100 new affordable rental units in the short-term and 500 over the long-term.
• Low- and moderate-income renters who want to become owners have more options for purchasing affordable units. Create 100 more units that are affordable to low- and moderate-income renters qualified to become owners in the short-term and 200 over the long-term.
• Persons with accessibility needs are able to get the improvements they need and/or find accessible housing. Provide accessibility modifications to 25 renter households annually.
• Residents in unstable housing situations have more permanent, affordable and supportive housing options. Provide 45 tenant-based rental assistance vouchers annually in the short-term and 70 annually over the long-term.
• Residents living in housing in poor condition have improvements made. Bring 70 homes and apartments into good condition annually.
Lawrence voters approved a sales tax last year that will provide about $1 million annually to the city’s affordable housing trust for the next 10 years. Mayor Stuart Boley asked Aggeler whether the recommendations could be covered by the approximately $10 million in funding or whether they assumed the use of other resources and partnerships. Aggeler responded that to meet the goals included in the recommendations, it would take multiple sources of funding in addition to the trust funds, including federal grants and partnerships with the private sector.
The City Commission voted unanimously to receive the affordable housing report.