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Tenants to Homeowners files plans for independent, senior living project in south Lawrence

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If Lawrence really wants to become a destination for retirees, Rebecca Buford, executive director of Lawrence's Tenants to Homeowners, believes there is an issue community leaders might want to think about: an affordable place for retirees to live.

"If we really want seniors to come live here, we should think about this," Buford said. "We don't want them locking up all their money in housing. We want them to have money available to spend in Lawrence."

Buford and her not-for-profit agency have filed plans to build a 14-unit, rent-controlled, senior living housing development on property just behind the United Way building in south Lawrence.

Tenants to Homeowners has filed a request to rezone about 2 acres of vacant property at 2518 Ridge Court to RM-12 multi-family zoning. The property currently is zoned for RS-7 single family development.

Buford said concept plans call for the property to be developed with a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom townhouses that will be limited to seniors 55 and older.

Buford said a group of retirees or soon-to-be retirees approached Tenants to Homeowners about the project, saying that Lawrence needed more retirement housing that "felt like a neighborhood instead of a high-rise apartment complex."

Buford said current plans call for Tenants to Homeowners to rent the properties to seniors rather than sell the townhouses. Buford said feedback from several retirees indicated they would rather rent than own.

"Seniors don't want to lock all their equity up into their homes," Buford said. "They usually need access to their equity for health care and other expenses."

The units will rent for below-market rates, and seniors must meet certain income guidelines to qualify for a unit. Buford said the project will be geared at those seniors who make 80 percent or less of the area's median income. For a family size of two, that means an annual income of $45,350 or less.

The property currently is owned by Douglas County. It was part of the old Valley View Nursing Home that the county operated decades ago. Buford said plans call for the county to donate the property to Tenants to Homeowners, which will help the project offer below-market rates. Buford said she also is working to secure grants and other financing for the approximately $2 million project.

If the City Hall land use approvals come through in a timely fashion, Buford hopes to break ground next spring and be ready to open by late 2014.

Buford acknowledges the project may face opposition from a few neighbors, which is often the case when vacant ground in an established neighborhood is proposed to be developed. This one comes with the added hurdle that Tenants to Homeowners is asking for a zoning category that often is used to build apartments. But Buford said Tenants to Homeowners is committed to the idea of townhouse development rather than a traditional apartment complex. And she said the development will place restrictions on the land to ensure that it always remains limited to senior housing.

But this may be one project that hits City Hall with a lot of momentum. It is combining two trends that have been getting a lot of talk locally: affordable housing and attracting retirees. There was an entire joint city-county task force on attracting retirees to the city.

And this is the third affordable housing project to surface in recent months, joining the public-private proposal by the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority at 23rd and O'Connell, and plans for a new four-story development near the Poehler Lofts building in East Lawrence. By the way, Buford confirmed to me that Tenants to Homeowners has agreed to be a partner in that project, which will feature 43 units in a newly-constructed building at the southeast corner of Ninth and Delaware streets.

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Comments

Richard Heckler 11 months, 4 weeks ago

"If Lawrence really wants to become a destination for retirees, Rebecca Buford, executive director of Lawrence's Tenants to Homeowners, believes there is an issue community leaders might want to think about: an affordable place for retirees to live.

"If we really want seniors to come live here, we should think about this," Buford said. "We don't want them locking up all their money in housing. We want them to have money available to spend in Lawrence."

"Seniors don't want to lock all their equity up into their homes," Buford said. "They usually need access to their equity for health care and other expenses."

Someone in touch with reality and wearing a thinking cap has spoken. Excellent choice of words.

Affordable housing is not housing constructed as "CHEAP" as possible. It is high quality energy efficient housing that someone can afford to live in.

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gatekeeper 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Good idea, bad location. I wouldn't want my mother living there. Look at the crime statistics for that area and all the meth head's in the surrounding apartments. Too close to Redbud Ln. Elderly are easy pickin's for them.

8

Catalano 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Yeah, that was my first thought, too.

4

kernal 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Mine as well, because there doesn't seem to be much effort by some property managers and landlords to clean up their properties and do a better job of screening prospective tenants. Seems to be the status quo in Lawrence.

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Jim Schilling 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I'd love to see something like this on the land that is being discussed for the low-income project at 23rd and O'Connell.

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tomatogrower 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I wish there was some place closer to the downtown to retire. I would love to walk downtown when I'm retired. Actually they might be able to take over some of the Oread. More and more students are opting for the high end apartments. I've never seen so many for rent signs at the beginning of the school year.

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Seth Peterson 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Wasn't there a beautiful new home built on the West Side of Lawrence just a few months ago?

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blindrabbit 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Ditto the "bad location" comments. Would be tough to come up with a worse scenario for a safe location for senior citizens. Otherwise, the concept is commendable.

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Richard Heckler 11 months, 4 weeks ago

The entire neighborhood is not a bad neighborhood. Perhaps this will stimulate neighborhood rehabilitation.

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gatekeeper 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Correct, there are still some decent homes over there that are privately owned. BUT, all those apartments and duplex rentals are full of meth heads. I looked at some when I was a student in the late 80's/early 90's and they were bad then too, have just gotten worse over the years.

Nothing will change that neighborhood until the cheap rentals that are always in disrepair are cleaned up or gone. One main reason I moved to N. Lawrence was because it is mostly single family homes that aren't rentals.

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Stop_the_Madness 11 months, 4 weeks ago

This plan will work for retirees on a tight budget who already live in Lawrence. I think you should try to attract KU grads who have had successful careers and would like to return to Lawrence. There are no upscale empty nester properties in Lawrence.

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webmocker 11 months, 4 weeks ago

"There are no upscale empty nester properties in Lawrence."

Maybe none for your taste, but perhaps Bella Sera? Meadowlark? Possibly Hobbs Taylor or The Oread?

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sjgreen 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Does anyone know when they plan to break ground on the 9th and Delaware project? Also, isn't that corner in the flood plain? I work near there, and when we get a lot of rain that whole area looks like a lake.

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LawrenceTownie 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Affordable housing is always needed, especially for Seniors who do no have a pension and only rely on Social Security for their needs. I suspect there are many in that predicament today. The southern proposed area is also close to 23rd, 27th, and 31st which all hold many stores to visit. But isn't this the area where someone started fires a year ago or so? I have not seen in the news lately about fires being started in that area, perhaps the person was arrested on a different charge, and is still in jail. Just wondering.

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Topple 11 months, 4 weeks ago

It's close. I believe those fires were mainly in apartment buildings within a block or two of the southeast corner of 23rd & Iowa.

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stevegayle 11 months, 4 weeks ago

"upscale empty nesters" can choose from the entire housing stock of Lawrence, as well as those suggested by webmocker and the joint KU/City New Cities Project with Dennis Domer. A true retirement community also needs to meet the needs of older adults who have lived in and contributed to Douglas County for decades.

The neighborhood does have many rentals. Tenants to Homeowners projects raise the standard when they come in. In addition to the easy access to shopping in the area, this location is near the bus route and resources at the United Way building.

Water/flooding problems have been addressed in the site plan and the results should benefit the entire area. Tenants to Homeowners has worked with the community in planning this project. I expect they will address each legitimate concern and Lawrence will benefit from the results.

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