Lenexa council candidates on the issues: Housing affordability in Lenexa

The Lofts at City Center
A look at the construction site of The Lofts at City Center in Lenexa. Many new apartment complexes in the area won’t be affordable to lower-income residents.

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Lenexa.

Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item three:

Almost 40% of jobs in Johnson County pay under $36,000 and more than one in three Johnson County households are single income households. What housing options would you like to see put into place in our community to make sure that everyone who works here can afford to live here? (This question came from the Johnson County Health Equity Network, which focuses on housing affordability, stability and safety).

City Council Ward 1

Courtney Eiterich

I am thrilled to see the Johnson County Health Equity Network doing a housing study so that local governments can better assess the needs of their cities. Using that data, we can create affordable housing opportunities with land use and planning tools, zoning for accessory dwelling units such as “mother-in-law quarters”, and/or incentives for building affordable housing units. There is not a “one size fits all” solution so we need to look at all of the options available to include both rentals and homeownership. It is important for the people in Lenexa to also be able to call it home.

Chris Poss

The city of Lenexa currently has a diverse housing supply, including multi-family options ranging from duplexes to multi-building apartment complexes, and single family homes available for rent or ownership. Rental rates vary across the city and single family homes range in price from the low-100’s up to a 1 million plus. The median home value in 2016 was $238,261 and is projected to be $257,565 in 2021.

Lenexa’s current comprehensive plan has an emphasis on the need for smaller single family homes for first time buyers and senior housing. Visions 2030 and 2040 also place an emphasis on this need. As a former residential construction manager, I have experience in building homes for all stages of life and can add a great deal of value to these conversations. Looking to other cities and housing trends can help guide Lenexa with these developments as well. I believe municipalities are a part of this conversation but the development community will ultimately drive this dialog by providing feedback on what attainable housing looks like, the moving parts associated with housing costs, and how we can work together to make housing attainable for all.

City Council Ward 4

Linda Leeper

In Johnson County it is becoming harder to find affordable/attainable housing. It is a greater than ever burden for the single income households and seniors, in Johnson County. Lenexa businesses will continue to face challenges in recruiting workforce due to lack of affordable housing and that in turn will affect our strong Johnson County economy. The types of housing I would like to see is varied offerings to better fit the needs of the many individual who want to call Lenexa home. For those who would prefer a single-family home, some older homes are available in Ward 4 that are in the City’s Neighborhood Revitalization District. Within this District homeowners can apply for grants for exterior enhancements to their home. Affordable new homes under $250,000 are very difficult at best to offer due to the inherent costs due to governing body ordinances, zoning restrictions and utility assessments on new development. There could be opportunities for smaller cottage homes, shared driveways, four-plex units in the East side of Lenexa as infill development projects where the land costs are lower. But again, this type of new housing would require some incentives from the City to make then a workable project. In Lenexa’s newer development areas that have large multiplex apartment units being built the governing body could require the builder to have a limited number of affordable priced units within the project to receive commission approval.

Julie Sayers

Lenexa is participating in the Johnson County Health Equity Network housing study, and based on their findings, we should be prepared to examine and implement their recommendations that are feasible for our community. In addition, we need to continue outreach to homeowners in Ward 4 where revitalization grants are available to help care for our existing aging housing stock, and continue to look at zoning for smaller scale single-family and multi-family housing.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item four:

 What’s the top thing you’d like to be able to say about the city of Lenexa four years from today that you can’t say now? Why?