County to hear more about supportive housing assessment estimating that almost 400 units are needed at cost exceeding $100M

photo by: Journal-World

The west side of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., is pictured on Sept. 23, 2021.

Douglas County needs almost 400 units of supportive housing, the cost of which would exceed $100 million, according to an assessment by the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

The Douglas County Commission is set to hear more about the CSH’s findings during a work session before its regular meeting Wednesday. The commission approved that needs assessment last September, to help county leaders plan for how much housing to build in the future and to understand which populations to prioritize for new developments.

The assessment’s key findings indicate that in Douglas County an estimated 381 total units of supportive housing are needed — 356 for individual households or households where only adults live, and another 25 for families.

Supportive housing, according to the CSH, is a model that combines affordable housing — usually in the form of rental support — with other support services that help to keep those households stable. The idea is to end chronic homelessness, and the model is typically targeted toward people with both extremely low income and some type of disability.

The costs associated with developing and sustaining the amount of housing the assessment says is needed exceeds $100 million. Based on a 10-year financial model that reflects local goals around producing units of housing, the combined capital, operating and service costs during that time period would amount to $102.95 million.

The commission doesn’t take action during work sessions, but the CSH does provide recommendations for county leaders to consider, including consideration of acquiring developments to be used as supportive housing; identifying strategies to make funding sustainable; and centering racial equity and amplifying the voices of people who have lived experience with this type of housing model.

In other business, the commission will:

• Consider approving the Public Works Department’s vegetation management plan. The department is requesting approval for that plan after a two-week public review and comment period that started March 9. The plan details Public Works’ Parks and Vegetation Crew’s responsibilities and lays out goals like protecting sensitive crops, noxious weed control and promoting public education.

• Consider approving changes to the health care plan for county employees, county funding and employee/retiree rates for a June 1 renewal. That includes “carving out” the dental plan from plan bundles and increasing its annual maximum from $1,250 to $2,000; implementing Health Reimbursement Accounts as an option; and adding a fourth coverage tier for payroll contribution purposes.

The county anticipates a 2.3% projected increase in total plan costs, which actually turns into a 4.9% decrease in cost when excluding Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center employees, since they’re transitioning to their own insurance this year.

• Consider giving approval to relocate the county recycling dropoff location at the Vinland Fair Site parking lot, 711 East 1750 Road, to a county-owned Public Works operations satellite site at 1704 North 700 Road. The current location has been closed since late February following numerous complaints of illegal dumping. The new site is still located in the unincorporated community of Vinland, south of Lawrence and north of Baldwin City. The request is for a one-year period, starting Wednesday and continuing until March 23, 2023, with the possibility of extension.

Wednesday’s work session will begin at 4 p.m., and the regular business meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. The meeting will also be available by Zoom. For meeting information, visit the county’s website:


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