Lawrence City Commission approves zoning changes to allow for neighborhood of small homes
photo by: City of Lawrence
City leaders voiced support Tuesday for a private-public partnership to build a first-of-its-kind neighborhood of small homes in eastern Lawrence, but some residents said they were concerned that the city’s affordable housing efforts weren’t being spread out enough.
As part of its regular meeting, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to approve two requests related to the proposed development of small homes, known as the Burroughs Creek Trail Addition. The project calls for building 13 small homes on a 1.6-acre site near Bullene Avenue and 19th Street, seven of which will be designated as affordable housing and sold below market rates to income-qualified individuals or families.
Tenants to Homeowners is partnering with private developers on the project, which will be the first in the city to use smaller lot sizes. The city already allows the 3,000-square-foot single-family lots the project requires, but the proposed site required a rezoning from industrial uses to that zoning type as well as an amendment to the comprehensive plan.
In July, the commission voted to award $125,000 from the city’s affordable housing trust to help fund the project.
Commissioner Matthew Herbert said he thought the project set a good precedent for cooperation between the city and private developers. He said such methods would be necessary in the future if Lawrence hopes to address its affordable housing shortage.
“This is the opportunity to put a project on display that not only meets the 6:1 ratio of leveraging (city funding) but exceeds that, and invites the development community into the mix,” Herbert said.
However, community leaders in the Brook Creek Neighborhood have opposed the plan, citing concerns about overcrowding and increased storm water runoff. Brook Creek Neighborhood Association Vice President Michael Almon also told the commission that almost all of the city’s affordable housing projects have been built on the east side of town.
Almon said the more logical candidates for such developments were sparsely settled, low-density areas. He said his neighborhood already has the greatest concentration of low-income housing, including mobile homes, public housing, and projects by Tenants to Homeowners and Habitat for Humanity. Noting that the city’s policy calls for affordable housing to be scattered throughout the community, Almon asked the commission for a moratorium on affordable housing units in Brook Creek and other east side neighborhoods.
Mayor Lisa Larsen acknowledged those concerns and said members of the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board will need to work on making affordable housing available in more parts of town.
“I know they are working on the scattered aspect of it; it’s obviously not here yet,” Larsen said. “But I do agree that one way we will be able to do this is through private-public partnerships, and we’re now starting to see that.”
Planning and Development Director Scott McCullough told the commission that the lots will range in size from 3,058 to 5,223 square feet, with the lots for the market-rate homes being bigger than those for the homes designated as affordable housing. According to plans, the average lot size for the affordable homes will be about 3,345 square feet and the average lot size for the market-rate homes about 4,360 square feet.
Example plans provided by Tenants to Homeowners include two- and three-bedroom homes ranging from 600 to 1,200 square feet. The homes will be priced between $100,000 and $125,000, or about $50,000 below market value, and will have energy-efficient all-electric construction to keep utility costs down. Tenants to Homeowners will own the land for the affordable homes and will restrict resale prices so that the homes will be permanently affordable.