– Lisa Larsen
Lawrence has a rich history in housing. In 1967, Lawrence Mayor, Dick Raney, signed into law City Ordinance 3749 enacting one of Kansas’ first Fair Housing Laws that made it illegal to discriminate in housing on the basis of race, religion, or national origin. In 1968, the City and County collaborated to form the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority (LDCHA) to manage and maintain public housing. In 2001, the LDCHA was formally granted the power to plan, construct, maintain, and manage low-income housing. These important steps were the result of dedicated efforts, by the NAACP, United Church Women of Lawrence, the University of Kansas, and other nonprofit organizations.
From low income to workforce housing, affordability continues to be a barrier for too many in our community. In an effort to change this situation, we are working in collaboration with Douglas Co., Bert Nash, LDCHA, Tenants to Homeowners, Habitat for Humanity, Willow Domestic Center, Family Promise and others.
In addition, we will be doing a complete review and update of our city land development code in 2022. This will be a good opportunity to evaluate codes for their usefulness, applicability to today’s housing market, the impact on housing costs, and in light of our community values.
We still have a long road ahead of us and I don’t believe we’ve seen the full impact of COVID on our housing. But we are making progress and are on track with our data-driven goals from the City of Lawrence Housing Market Analysis that was conducted in 2018. The figure above shows the progress we are making.
We need to continue on the path of meeting our 2018 Housing Market Analysis target goals, concentrate on distributing affordable housing throughout our community, and work to find ways to encourage the building of more reasonably priced homes that meet the need of those with moderate incomes or that are often at the beginning of their career path. There are many strategies that are being reviewed to meet these needs. I believe the City can be an important partner by buying single family and multifamily homes scattered throughout the community and having our social service partners manage the properties. This strategy leverages the strengths of each partner.
Affordable housing is only part of the problem; the other is inadequate income. I will continue to support economic development policies that attract companies to Lawrence and encourage existing businesses to expand that will pay at or above the living wage. Visit my Economic Development webpage to learn about these programs.
As a city commissioner, I have had the the opportunity to enact affordable housing and economic development policies that are working. I will continue to listen to the community for additional concerns and ideas on how to solve this community problem.