Community foundation to host event to increase collaboration, individual action regarding affordable housing
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With thousands of Lawrence residents struggling to pay their housing costs, a community charitable foundation says it’s time for more people to help fix the problem.
The Douglas County Community Foundation will soon be holding public meetings to start conversations and encourage collaboration among nonprofits, businesses, governments, universities and philanthropists to address the city’s shortage of affordable housing. The event, Community Convening on Affordable Housing, is the first in a series of three public meetings to discuss local concerns that the foundation hopes to help address, and it will be followed by discussions on behavioral health and food security and personal health.
The event will take place Wednesday at the Lawrence Public Library and will include a welcome address by Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, presentation of actions other cities have taken on affordable housing, panel discussion, question-and-answer session and facilitated small groups. Chip Blaser, the foundation’s executive director, said the goal of the event was to envision more collaborative community action regarding affordable housing and to discuss how charitable and private investment can fit in with the work of the city, nonprofit organizations and others.
“Obviously the city, through the (Affordable Housing Advisory Board), is making great strides on affordable housing and really prioritizing this issue,” Blaser said. “We want to help others be both informed on how they can make an impact as well as feel the desire to become personally involved on these topics.”
Blaser said that involvement could take several forms. For example, he said that could mean identifying philanthropic or other funding to support existing efforts to create more affordable housing, such as those being made by local nonprofits. It could also mean private investors or companies working directly on projects to increase the stock of affordable housing.
Lawrence voters approved a sales tax in 2017 that will provide about $1 million annually to the city’s affordable housing trust for the next 10 years. The Affordable Housing Advisory Board solicits and reviews applications for the funds and makes spending recommendations, which are then sent to the commission for consideration. The city began collecting the affordable housing sales tax this month, and funds will be available later this year.
Last year, the city hired BBC Research & Consulting to complete a housing market analysis. The study found that about 5,300 Lawrence renters were cost-burdened, defined as those who spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. The study also found that about 2,300 renters earning between about $35,000 and $75,000 would like to purchase a home, but few affordable homes are available.
Rogers will talk about the governor’s office plans to help address housing issues by working with community foundations, which it says are vital to providing local solutions to local problems. He will also talk about potential initiatives from Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration to help communities deal with affordable housing.
Nancy Jackson, co-founder of the fundraising organization Generous Change, will then discuss what actions other communities have taken that have helped create more affordable housing. Those include greater collaboration between various entities — such as local governments, nonprofits, community foundations — that subsequently helps identify gaps in services and potential funding sources to address those gaps. Like Blaser, Jackson said that could also be direct investment in a particular project, such as rehabbing houses or apartment complexes and converting them into affordable housing.
“We have an issue in Lawrence, Kansas, which is that lots of people who work here can’t really afford to live here,” Jackson said. “And that’s true in many communities around the country, and so Lawrence gets to decide, what do we want for here?”
Jackson’s discussion will be followed by the panel discussion, question-and-answer session, and the facilitated small group discussions. The community foundation’s Community Convening on Affordable Housing is open to the public and will take place at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.
• Ron Gaches, Affordable Housing Advisory Board chair
• Mathew Faulk, Bert Nash Housing Program manager
• Phil Struble, president and CEO of Landplan Engineering
• Stephen Fawcett, Center for Community Health and Development senior adviser, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre co-director, Kansas Health Foundation Emeritus Distinguished Professor
• Bobbie Flory, Lawrence Home Builders Association executive director
• Julianne Moreland Davee, University of Kansas School of Law Medical-Legal Partnership at Lawrence Memorial Hospital managing attorney
• Heather McNeive, Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority director of resident services
• Christina Gentry, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department community liaison