Tenants to Homeowners is celebrating 30 years of affordable housing this weekend with an open house event.
Battle of the Builders is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at Beatnik Court. There will be live music, games, food, crafts for all ages, home repair workshops and more. The morning also starts with a 5K fun run; registration is available at this link.
“People will be able to have fun and gather information on affordable housing,” says Nicholas Ward, director of program innovation and community collaboration. “These annual events are our way of having a touchstone with the community … and showing them the housing that’s being constructed.”
The event will be held in a newly developed cul-de-sac by Burroughs Creek Trails, just north of 19th Street and Bullene Avenue. (See a map below.)
“There were some lots that had some dilapidated houses on them,” says Rebecca Buford, executive director of Tenants to Homeowners. “So those (houses) were removed, and we built a little cul-de-sac … and we have seven affordable houses and six market rate houses right next to the Burroughs Creek Trails.”
The event will highlight three houses in different states: there will be a two-bedroom fully accessible unit that’s completely built; one that’s been framed with walls going up; and one that features a poured foundation that will be framed on Saturday.
“You’re gonna see several stages of construction and really get a sense of how we build,” Buford says. “Come see this new neighborhood which is really exciting and has a really modern style of housing. … We have market-rate houses built across the street, so it really shows what we hope for Lawrence … because we know that’s the healthiest way to build neighborhoods.”
Tenants to Homeowners advocates for a mixed-income model for housing rather than segregating low-income housing. A project that’s in the works will place a 122-unit housing development on Lawrence’s west side, near Bob Billings Parkway and Kansas Highway 10.
“I really don’t want a concentration of affordable housing,” Buford says. “I … actually believe that if you are a person of wealth, but you have a personal experience with the single mom next door, you are improved and become a better advocate. … You don’t have that stigma — those are people, not those people.”
Tenants to Homeowners has 100 ownership homes in trust, helping people like Kait McNeely, a local bus driver, and her husband, Casey, attain housing.
“It’s been incredible,” McNeely says. “I’m so glad that we learned about this program. … We wouldn’t have been able to get a house without it. And you know, if we could eventually afford a down payment and whatnot, we’d have ended up with a house that needed lots of repairs, either shortly or in the not-too-distant future.”
McNeely says homeownership has improved her stress level tremendously.
“I come home and I’m relaxed because like, nothing’s broken or moldy, … and our utilities are incredibly cheap because it’s only electric,” she says. “You know, there’s no gas, and we’ve got a four-bedroom house, which is also incredible.”
To qualify for the Tenants to Homeowners program, you need to have a credit rating of 685 or above.
“That’s probably one of the hardest (requirements), I think, credit, but they have to … have a good credit score to use the program and that’s probably the biggest criticism from some that haven’t been able to use it,” Buford says.
Buford recognizes that the credit score requirements could exclude some people, but she emphasizes that stable credit ratings demonstrate a long-term ability to make monthly payments on a 30-year mortgage.
Saturday’s event will be a showcasing of the homes Tenants to Homeowners produces, and a fundraiser for the program.
Note: This post has been updated to correct a misspelled name.
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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.