Lawrence City Commission to discuss shortage of homes for sale and potential solutions

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City leaders will soon discuss the city’s shortage of homes for sale with organizations that represent Realtors and builders, as well as the negative effect of the shortage on housing affordability.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive a presentation from the Lawrence Homebuilders Association and the Lawrence Board of Realtors regarding the state of Lawrence’s housing market. The Realtors board has worked with the homebuilders association, the affordable housing provider Tenants to Homeowners and others to prepare the presentation, according to presentation materials.

“Higher sales prices means opportunities for home ownership are becoming out of reach for more and more Lawrencians,” the presentation states.

The organizations requested the meeting in March because they say the city is facing a historic shortage of homes on the market that requires city leaders to take action, as the Journal-World reported. Lawrence Board of Realtors President John Huntington told the Journal-World at that time that in his 30 years of experience he had never seen such a low inventory of homes for sale.

As part of the meeting Tuesday, representatives from the Realtors and homebuilders groups will provide data about the number and price of homes on the market, how those trends compare with past years and action the city could take to help encourage the construction of new homes.

A Tenants to Homeowners representative will also provide a presentation on the need for increased affordable housing, specifically including the gap between wages and prices; how to increase affordable housing stock through collaboration and the Housing Trust model; and barriers in the city’s development code to affordable infill development and new construction. A representative for the Lawrence chamber of commerce will present information regarding the role of housing in economic development.

The presentation includes information from the city-commissioned housing study from 2018 that states nearly half of nonstudent renters want to buy homes. That population earns between $35,000 and $75,000 per year and can afford homes between $110,000 and $262,000.

The presentation states that limited lot inventory constrains possible infill development, and scarcity drives up fair market value of lots. An inventory of active listings in April from 2012 to 2021 is provided, which ranges from a maximum of 741 listings in 2012 to only 108 this year. This combination of limited inventory and higher demand creates higher sales prices.

The median sales price and days on the market in 2010 are compared to 2021. In 2010, the median sales price was $158,000 — it does not say whether that figure is adjusted for inflation — compared with a median sales price of $249,000 this year. In 2010, the median days on the market for a newly constructed home was 42 days, compared with four days this year.

Presenters will discuss the benefits that owning a home can bring for individuals and families, as well as how housing affects the ability to bring new businesses to Lawrence and for businesses to recruit workers. Several strategies to improve the housing market will be discussed, including helping low-income people purchase their first home, loosening land use and zoning restrictions to stimulate development, and using property tax incentives to encourage homeowners and landlords to rehabilitate existing homes.

The City Commission will convene virtually for its regular meeting at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually if they are able to do so. A link to register for the Zoom meeting and directions to submit written public comment are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website,


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