Year-end reports for Affordable Housing Advisory Board provide details about several ongoing housing projects

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

Lawrence's Affordable Housing Advisory Board met Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.

On Monday, members of the Affordable Housing Advisory Board discussed year-end reports for a set of ongoing projects that previously have received Affordable Housing Trust Fund grant funding.

That discussion didn’t include any presentations from recipients and the reports from each grantee were fairly brief; Chair Monte Soukup at one point remarked that one report was not sufficient and didn’t provide any explanation of progress on the project thus far.

However, the reports on the whole still provide some new details about ongoing projects under the direction of organizations like Tenants to Homeowners, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and DCCCA. Here’s an overview of the details included in those year-end reports, which were attached with the board’s agenda for this week:


DCCCA’s project, which was awarded $800,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds, is aiming to build transitional housing units for women in recovery from substance abuse. As the Journal-World has reported, the nonprofit wants to add up to five duplex-style residences, 10 units in total, on its First Step at Lake View residential drug and alcohol treatment campus.

The report for this project doesn’t list an anticipated opening date; it notes that DCCCA has been focused on first completing a comprehensive study for the project, readying a board of directors for a capital campaign and opening its new $7 million, 17,000-square-foot service center in eastern Lawrence. The last item on that list delayed some of the transitional housing infrastructure work, the report notes.

Since then, the report says DCCCA has established a plan for that capital campaign and identified committee members to prepare for when fundraising launches in earnest.

Tenants to Homeowners

Tenants to Homeowners had two projects to provide year-end reports for this time around, one concerning its “Michigan Six” project at 105 Michigan St. and “Harper Seven” project at 1718 Harper St. Both projects involve utilizing the city’s affordable housing density bonus, which allows two homes to be built on one typically sized lot as long as they’re permanently affordable. They both include constructing six units of permanently affordable housing, but the Harper Street property also has an existing 500-square-foot home that will be rehabilitated as part of the project.

The Harper Seven project in 2022 received $200,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds to support acquiring 1718 Harper St. Since then, Tenants to Homeowners has fully rehabilitated the existing home on the site and sold it into the community land trust. It’s also nearly completed construction of a pair of two-story units on the site, which will be ready for sale as early as next month. The remaining four units on the site are still under construction and could be on the market by this summer or early fall.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The property at 1718 Harper Street in eastern Lawrence is planned for a new affordable housing project by Tenants to Homeowners.

The Michigan Six project, granted $400,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds, was the only project for which any extended background was shared during Monday’s meeting. That’s because the board’s vice-chair, Nicholas Ward, works with Tenants to Homeowners and was asked to provide some additional context about the main challenge with the project — an existing neighborhood covenant disallowing the construction of an accessory unit on any property, no matter the size of the plot.

That presents a roadblock for the six units called for in the project plan, since there are supposed to be two of them located on three of the four lots on the property. The nonprofit’s current plan, per the report, is to begin developing three single-family units on the property this year if efforts to lift the covenant are unsuccessful.

photo by: Hernly Associates

A concept plan shows the layout for an affordable housing project at 105 Michigan St. proposed by Tenants to Homeowners.

Ward told the group that roughly 50% of residents who live in the frontage of the property have signed off on lifting the covenant so far, and he plans to continue working to add more neighbors to that group in the coming months. He said Tenants to Homeowners was unaware of the covenant, which seems to be based around a “push for a certain aesthetic from a certain era,” when acquiring the land.

Ward said he’s been going door to door, having conversations at kitchen tables and even hosted a pizza party for neighbors in an effort to generate conversations about what the covenant does and doesn’t allow, and why having affordable housing of this type might be of interest to the neighborhood.

“That’s good, and it’s also just a great way to connect with the neighbors in a real meaningful way, versus just sending out social media things and things like that,” Ward said. “That’s going well.”

The Estates of Lawrence

This project, headed by Gardner’s Wheatland Investments Group, was awarded $400,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds for an affordable multifamily housing development called The Estates of Lawrence. Those funds are helping the developer to construct 38 townhomes targeted to seniors.

Per the year-end report for this project, construction at The Estates of Lawrence began in 2023 and is expected to wrap up this year. In the fourth quarter of last year, transformers and water meters were installed throughout the site, and the report provides further positive updates about progress so far.

“All building slabs have been installed and framing is underway,” the report reads. “Installation of roofs, windows and doors are also underway. Construction is progressing nicely.”

Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center

Bert Nash’s report pertains to a project to construct a 24-unit supportive housing complex for people experiencing homelessness and struggling with behavioral health conditions, slated for a property near the intersection of Sixth Street and Rockledge Road. Along with the permanently-affordable housing units that come packaged with permanent supportive services, the project will also create an office space for Bert Nash’s community-based supportive services teams.

photo by: Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center

These plans show a supportive housing project that Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center plans to construct in north-central Lawrence.

The project received $558,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds between 2022 and 2023, which the report notes have assisted Bert Nash with beginning the final phase of project design and initiating “soft cost services” like engineering. As of September 2023, Bert Nash had acquired the property and initiated final design work.

While there’s no estimated completion date on the report, Bert Nash CEO Patrick Schmitz has previously told the Journal-World that if all goes to plan residents could begin moving into the complex in early 2025.

But according to the report, the project hasn’t been short on obstacles that have caused significant delays and additional costs. The primary issue was acquiring a property on which to build in the first place.

“Bert Nash and the City of Lawrence received significant community resistance to every previously proposed location for the project, including locations in the downtown area, and locations that would have provided a location for no cost,” the report reads. “Project design could not move forward and has been delayed for over 16 months as a a result.”

That meant Bert Nash had to purchase the commercial site at Sixth Street and Rockledge Road, which added $1.6 million to the project’s total price tag. That’s the next significant obstacle for the project, the report reads — market rates for materials and construction will add yet another cost increase, and timelines for possible grant funding to help fill the gaps have been either delayed or prolonged.

Flint Hills Holdings

As the Journal-World has reported, the project from prominent developer Tony Krsnich seeks to add nearly 50 units of rent-controlled affordable housing for residents 55 and older at 1000 New Hampshire St. as part of a larger redevelopment project involving the chunk of former Allen Press properties located at the southern end of downtown.

photo by: H2B Architects

A rendering shows a proposed mixed-use building that would provide senior housing and commercial space near 11th and New Hampshire streets.

The report for Flint Hills Holdings’ New Hampshire Street Lofts project was the one that Soukup, the board chair, expressed dissatisfaction with at Monday’s meeting. The report indeed does not list progress so far, or any estimates as to when construction will begin. It does note that the project is expected to be built this year and anticipates participation from the City of Lawrence in addressing infrastructure issues like repaving an alleyway on the east side of the project will be “critical to realizing the project’s potential.”

Most recently, the project in November 2023 earned final approval from the Lawrence City Commission to establish a Neighborhood Revitalization Area — and thus receive a 15-year, 95% tax rebate on the value of new improvements made to the property — and use Industrial Revenue Bond financing for a sales tax exemption on construction materials.


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