Lawrence’s 2019 residential lot inventory shows slight decrease in availability

An interactive map that is part of the city’s 2019 Residential Lot Inventory Report shows the already built residential lots in blue, the vacant lots that are development ready in purple, and the vacant lots that are currently lacking infrastructure in red.

The city’s annual count of the number of available residential lots in Lawrence has decreased slightly compared to the previous year, which some say does not bode well for the city’s effort to create more affordable housing.

According to the city’s 2019 residential lot inventory, there was a 19.5% decrease in residential lot supply and a 15% decrease in demand for residential lots. Factoring in both of those statistics, it would take six years for the residential lot inventory in Lawrence to be exhausted, the city estimates. That’s a slight decrease compared to the 2018 estimate of 6.2 years, according to past reports.

Though it’s not a large drop, Lawrence Home Builders Association Executive Director Bobbie Flory said that the number needs to be headed in the other direction in order to help decrease the cost of building a home. Flory said if the community can increase the supply of lots and homes, it can have a huge impact on helping to meet the demand for affordable housing.

“At this rate, we are behind and we are not catching up,” Flory said.

The inventory has generally been declining over the past several years, according to past city reports. In 2014, for example, the estimate for how long it would take to exhaust the residential lot inventory was 14 years.

Flory said the cost of a lot is a big driver in the cost of a home and that as the supply of residential lots decreases, the cost for those lots will increase. Currently, she said that lots in new subdivisions cost between $55,000 and $75,000 for an entry-level or moderately priced home, and go up from there.

Builders have also said over the years that the number of lots in the city’s annual residential lot inventory is inflated because it includes lots that are undesirable or that can’t be built on. However, the city has done some work to correct that concern in this year’s report.

As part of an enhanced review process, Planning and Development Analyst Brandon Thorngate said that the city removed 84 lots from the analysis because staff determined they couldn’t be built on. That could result from a number of factors — being in a floodway, lack of right-of-way access or similar issues. Thorngate said the city has always taken out some lots, but that 2019 represents an analysis of more factors affecting development potential.

There may be other circumstances that affect whether a lot can be developed. In addition to the factors reviewed by the city, Flory said that some other lots couldn’t be developed because of difficult terrain or because they are a double lot that the homeowner plans to maintain as their yard. She said the intent of a property owner is not information that can be easily accounted for.

Other improvements to the report this year relate to its format. The report previously consisted of only a written document, but Thorngate said the city has tried to make the most recent report more accessible and interactive.

Specifically, the new report has an online component with a map of the city and allows the viewer to select different types of lots for display, including lots already built, vacant lots that lack infrastructure, and vacant lots that are “development ready,” meaning that street, sewer and water infrastructure services are already available for the lot. Flory said the new format is definitely helpful for both builders and members of the public who want to understand the availability of residential lots.

The 2019 residential lot inventory is available on the Planning & Development Services website.


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