Lenexa City Council wards 3 and 4 candidates on the issues: Affordable housing

In early June, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Lenexa City Council in wards 3 and 4 address in the lead up to the Aug. 3 primary.

Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Lenexa.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of these five questions. Below are the candidates’ responses to item one:

  • It seems like many people are being priced out of the metro area, and Johnson County is no exception. Lenexa can’t mitigate for the entire metro, but what can Lenexa do as a city? What role does Lenexa have within the region in supporting affordable housing?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:

Ward 3

Melanie Arroyo

When we think about affordable housing, we need to start by thinking about the families of Lenexa first. One way to put families first is by ensuring that there is a wide variety of housing types approved for construction in newer parts of the city which are inclusive for diverse family needs. In addition, it’s also important that we continue to invest in older parts of the city.

When the city is considering giving tax subsidies to developers and business, we should reserve those types of incentives for civically minded projects promoting affordability and variety. For example, choosing mixed-income housing instead of luxury condo towers which would serve a wider purpose for more Lenexans.

Also, cities need flexibility to find affordable housing solutions. Unfortunately, the Kansas Legislature currently blocks cities from deploying tools like affordable housing requirements that have been successful elsewhere. To promote affordable housing, I would like to see Lenexa partner with other local cities to try and roll back state legislative overreach in these areas.

And when it comes to tackling regional challenges, Lenexa needs leaders who are collaborative and willing to work pragmatically to get things done.

I’ve been endorsed by state and local leaders like state Rep. Susan Ruiz, because they know I am willing to work across party lines for the good of the city.

Simply put, we need to place families first, embrace incentives for civically minded projects, and push our legislature for more local flexibility to address affordable housing needs.

Laura Hill

Did not respond.

Corey Hunt (incumbent)

Lenexa does have a role in determining what types of housing is offered and where housing exists. In fact, there is quite a history of Lenexa pioneering alternative housing offered to residents looking for a different suburban experience, just look at the Four Colonies sub-division.

A state-of the-art neighborhood designed to have smaller, more affordable homes on smaller pieces of land, connected by a network of sidewalks internal to the community. Looking further around the city and specifically in Ward 3 neighborhoods you can find both single family homes, multi-family homes and senior residential living all in the same neighborhood in a way that makes sense and promotes the very community Lenexans tell us over and over again they want. Lenexa has some of the most affordable housing in Johnson County and I believe our city does a great job of helping to maintain the value of your property. So what is “affordable” housing? (>30% of income distributed to housing per month), imagine that?!

Instead of the term “affordable”, maybe we should use the term “attainable” how can Lenexa mitigate for attainable housing? We can do this by incentivizing redevelopment in the areas in need of a fresh start. By taking a hard look at our In-Fill projects where pieces of land can be re-purposed / re-zoned if needed and if that is the right thing to do (currently my favorite piece of property for this is just off of 77th and Quivera to the east, a great spot for what could be alternative housing). Trends in the housing market has drastically changed over the course of a few years and the COVID pandemic will have an impact as well.

I believe Lenexa is lucky in the fact that Lenexa offers some of the most attractive land for development in all of Johnson County. I believe that fact puts the city in a great position to work with developers to develop housing types that Lenexa residents continue to vision at a quality point Lenexan’s expect. I support regularly reviewing city ordinances regulating residential zoning in a transparent and inclusive way.

Gael A. Wheeler

Did not respond.

Ward 4

Hophine Bwosinde

The pricing of people out of the metro city can be mitigated by introduction of affordable housing that can accommodate the homeless in the city by first,introduction bond measures to create homes affordable to households that make less of the median income of lenexa households.

Second, donation of land by the city to developers to build housing projects of which percentage like 20% will be to the homeless population . Housing measures can be put on bond elections since this draw large percentage of voters, it is easy to for some to be voted on.

Scott Callaway

The housing market in Johnson County is a Seller’s market. Homes are typically sold within 3-5 days of being listed on the multiple listing service by Realestate Agents.

I spoke with Jerone Franks, Housing Choice Supervisor for Johnson County, this past week and he advised that applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, previously regarded as Section 8, is currently closed. It last opened in October, 2020 online, and was closed within 38 minutes due to high demand.

The Housing Authority is currently processing 62 vouchers, with over 1000 voucher request in queue. I inquired what steps we can take as City Council to alleviate the pressure on this program and he said we need more money from the Federal Government in the HUD program.

I’ve also spoken with City Manager Beccy Yocham about this issue and she advised the City is in the process of reviewing zoning codes that would allow more creative flexibility for constituents to rent out portions of their homes to renters.

As a City Council member my goal regarding Affordable Housing would be to support these efforts and ensure anyone wishing to live in this beautiful city and be a good contribution to our growth would have the opportunity to do so.

Craig K. Denny

I agree that Lenexa has a role in supporting affordable housing in the region. “Affordable” can be defined in a number of ways, based on location/situation. Lenexa has an array of housing opportunities (ownership and rental) including single family, duplex/4-plex, multi-family and senior communities at various price points.

The 2021 United Community Services (UCS) Housing Study provides guidance. Based on Lenexa’s practice with prior studies, as a council member, I would expect the city to conduct a thorough review of the Housing Study to determine where and how its recommendations and strategies align with Lenexa’s existing plans, policy, programs, and funding available to support the identified housing needs.

Lenexa residents who meet certain criteria are eligible to participate in Johnson County’s HOME program, which provides grants to bring an owner-occupied home or dwelling into compliance with local housing codes and to address health and safety issues.

Transportation (specifically transit) is a consideration in the affordable housing discussion. People need to be able to travel to/from affordable housing to their jobs. Lenexa’s Complete Streets program and appropriate components of Vision 2040 should be considered.

On Tuesday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

I-435 cuts Lenexa in half, with most of the city’s established neighborhoods sitting to the east of the highway and newer neighborhoods developing in the west. How can the city ensure residents inside the 435 loop and in newer parts of Lenexa are treated equitably and that 435 doesn’t become a dividing line?