Friends of JCDS purchases 15th and 16th properties to provide affordable, accessible housing

Janel Bowers (right) last week discussed renovation plans with Tammy Brooks for the new house on Grandview in Overland Park. Friends of Johnson County Developmental Supports will renovate the home to be accessible for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disability.

Friends of Johnson County Developmental Supports has recently closed on properties for two new homes, nearing its goal of acquiring 20 houses by 2025.

The two new homes will be the organization’s 15th and 16th in a suite of affordable and accessible housing for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The nonprofit on Monday celebrated the recent purchase of the house at 7619 Grandview in Overland Park, near AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. The home will be renovated to include three bedrooms available to rent for three women who receive services from Johnson County Developmental Supports. The women will be able to move in once renovations are complete, perhaps by summer 2020.

“I’m just excited that we can meet an incredible need,” said Janel Bowers, chief development and operations officer for the nonprofit. “We were pretty excited when we happened to find this. It’s a great location for our folks.”

Bowers said the three women who will live at the house on Grandview were priced out of their current home for which the rent “had increased exponentially” to the point where they could no longer afford to live there.

Additionally, the organization has purchased a plot of land on Widmer in Shawnee and will build its first ever accessible home there from scratch.

Once the house on Widmer is complete, it will be fully accessible with four bedrooms. They hope to break ground in summer 2020 as well. Ron Schaeffer and GBA Engineering have services for this project, she added.

“We’re just super excited about these great partners and being able to build a house from the ground up, which means you don’t have to figure out how to make something work; it just works immediately,” she said. “It’ll be a good learning experience.”

Depending on how city codes on building requirements are written, houses are sometimes required to be built larger than what the nonprofit needs to provide accessibility services, Bowers said. Considering that the nonprofit specializes in smaller-scale housing projects designed to be accessible, it had been challenging to find the Widmer lot because it must be affordable for the nonprofit to purchase, be in an ideal location, and also fit with city codes that will allow smaller housing to be built.

Bowers said the progress on these two future homes was only made possible by Johnson County taxpayers who purchased tax credits through the Kansas Community Service Tax Credit program. There is still about $4,000 in tax credits left to purchase before the end of the day Tuesday, Dec. 31, and they are still fundraising for $20,000 to $50,000 to make the new homes “fully sustainable.”

“This credit enabled us to increase that availability of accessible housing that just isn’t there — and affordable housing that just isn’t there — so our individuals can live in the community and greater participate,” she said, adding that individuals will be more independent as well. “We do this because no one else really is. Somebody has to address affordable housing in Johnson County. We’re happy to focus these efforts on the individuals that JCDS serves.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error. GBA Engineering is providing architectural services for Friends of JCDS, not GBA Architects.