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Lawrence Affordable Housing Advisory Board recommends 4 housing projects, 3 programs for nearly $3M in funding

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Affordable Housing Advisory Board members on Monday voted to recommend that the city assist four housing projects and three programs with funding, but not an eastern Lawrence project that aims to house primarily families with children.

The city’s affordable housing sales tax brings in roughly $1 million per year. AHAB members annually consider applications, typically from developers and local nonprofit agencies, seeking a portion of those funds to help pay for projects.

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AHAB had almost $3 million to allocate to projects this year from the city’s affordable housing trust fund. Applications totaled about $5 million.

Several AHAB members had to recuse themselves from the discussion because of potential conflicts of interest. Chair Monte Soukup and AHAB members Sarah Waters, Phil Englehart, Mark Buhler, Christina Gentry, Erika Zimmerman and Thomas Howe voted on the projects.

Here’s what AHAB members decided Monday to recommend. See full applications for each project in the AHAB meeting agenda.

Full funding recommended:

• Supportive Rehabilitative Permanent Housing:
A development of 24 units of permanent supportive and rehabilitative housing to meet the needs of people who are experiencing mental illness and/or substance use issues and housing insecurity at 2222 W. Sixth St. The project comes from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.
Requested and recommended award: $450,000.

• New Hampshire Street Lofts:
A project from Flint Hills Holdings that aims to bring 48 affordable units intended for people ages 55 and up to the long-vacant downtown lot at 1000 New Hampshire St. (Read more about that in the articles at this link.) It had already been approved for $100,000 from AHAB in its 2022 funding year.
Requested and recommended award: $300,000.

• Independence Inc.’s Accessible Housing Program:
A program that assists seniors and people with disabilities who have low incomes with making accessibility modifications to their homes. Examples include entry ramps, accessible showers, grab bars, wider doorways and more.
Requested and recommended award: $75,000.

• New Horizons Transitional Housing Program:
A program of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority that assists families who are guests of the Lawrence Community Shelter or Family Promise of Lawrence with rental assistance and case management.
Requested and recommended award: $50,000.

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Partial funding recommended:

• Floret Hill:
A project that would create 121 units of permanently affordable housing at the southeast corner of Kansas Highway 10 and Bob Billings Parkway. The application states that the project anticipates receiving more than $37 million in tax credits and other funds, and that it could still be built with only partial funding from AHAB.
Request: $1.6 million. Recommended award: $1.3 million (81%).

• Douglas County Housing Stabilization Collaborative:
Provides assistance to tenants who could be facing homelessness. Between April 2021 and June 2023, the program has disbursed more than $2.3 million to nearly 2,000 households, according to the application. Some AHAB members said that although the effort does not create more affordable units, they see the project as a way to keep people housed and prevent additional need.
Request: $550,000. Recommended award: $509,000 (93%).

• Hope Project:
A request from the Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church and Family Promise of Lawrence to help with the cost of building a duplex and a fourplex at East Ninth and Tennessee streets — six total units geared toward helping families with children who have lost housing. Some AHAB members had concerns about the cost per unit, and they voted to fund the cost of roughly two units.
Request: $850,000. Recommended award: $300,000 (35%).

No funds recommended:

• East Heights Family Housing:
A second project from Flint Hills Holdings, to be located at 1430 Haskell Ave., the former East Heights Elementary School. The project would include single family homes and duplexes, tiny homes and more. It would target multigenerational households and, to the extent allowed by fair housing laws, would aim to serve people of color and immigrant households. It would include onsite early childhood education, health screenings, mental and behavioral health support for young children and provide community space.
Some board members said the project sounded great, but they had concerns that the developer had not yet acquired the land for it.
Requested: $1.2 million. Recommended award: $0.

Developers with The Prime Company, who had plans to build a large apartment complex on the eastern edge of town near 15th Street and Lindenwood Lane, withdrew their application for affordable housing tax funds after the planning commission denied their request to rezone the property for high-density housing.

The Lawrence City Commission will make final determinations on AHAB’s recommendations at a future meeting, tentatively in early December.

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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.

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