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Lawrence school board to consider tax breaks for affordable housing project

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Lawrence school board members will meet Monday for a brief agenda that includes considering the district’s portion of tax breaks to help fund construction of a downtown affordable housing project for people ages 55 and up.

The board’s agenda as of Sunday afternoon listed only reports from board members and the superintendent and consent agenda items, or a list of items that are generally considered routine and are approved with one motion unless a board member or the superintendent asks to pull something for further discussion.

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A report about the crossing guard and Safe Routes to School programs was postponed because of a last-minute scheduling conflict with the presenter, according to district spokesperson Julie Boyle.

The developer of the New Hampshire Street Lofts, the 48-unit affordable housing project planned for 1000 New Hampshire St., is seeking a 15-year, 95% Neighborhood Revitalization Area (NRA) property tax rebate as well as Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) financing to make project construction materials sales tax exempt.

The school board’s agenda materials state that “Impacts of the project on the local school district are insubstantial due to state school financing formulas.”

There will be no market-rate units in the building. At least 15% of the units would be for people with incomes less than or equal to 30% the area median income (AMI). Effective in May, the AMI for Douglas County is $94,600; 30% of the AMI is $19,900 annually for a household of one person, $22,750 for a household of two people. Rental rates at that income level range from $440 for a studio up to $560 for a two-bedroom unit. Units must remain affordable for at least 30 years.

The project already has secured about $3.33 million in funding, which includes $450,000 of City of Lawrence ARPA (federal COVID-19 relief) funds and $100,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It also has been approved by the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for $890,000 each in federal low-income housing tax credits and Kansas Affordable Housing Tax Credits, and $1 million from the National Housing Trust Fund.

Six members of the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee present for an Aug. 9 meeting voted unanimously to recommend that the City Commission approve the tax incentives. Lawrence school board Past President Shannon Kimball is a member of that committee.

Kimball said during that meeting that from the perspective of the school district, the project “will not have a negative impact on us.”

“It won’t grow our enrollment, but I know that this is also a type of housing that our community sorely needs,” she said.

The Lawrence City Commission and Douglas County Commission have both approved the tax incentives. The project will return to the city commission for final approval after the school board presumably approves it.

The tax incentives are on the board’s consent agenda along with some policy updates, including a new policy to handle open enrollment under new state legislation.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. See the full agenda at this link. The meeting will also be livestreamed over the district’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/@USD497.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

More coverage: New Hampshire Street Lofts

Lawrence school board to consider tax breaks for affordable housing project

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Lawrence school board members will meet Monday for a brief agenda that includes considering the district’s portion of tax breaks to help fund construction of a downtown affordable housing project for people ages 55 and up.

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