Kansas’ first statewide housing survey in three decades concludes that Johnson County, like much of the rest of the state, is faltering when it comes to fulfilling residents’ housing needs.
The survey was conducted by the Office of Rural Prosperity, a division of the Department of Commerce, and the nonprofit Kansas Housing Resource Corporation, which administers federal housing programs in the state.
The survey’s aim, in large part, officials say is to address Kansas’ long-standing shortage of data when it comes to housing and projecting current and future housing needs.
The full results of the housing needs assessment is set to be released sometime before February of next year. Before that, however, researchers are touring the state holding public presentations on regional findings.
Below are four takeaways about Johnson County’s particular housing needs that were shared during one of the tour’s meetings in Overland Park this past Tuesday at the Matt Ross Community Center.
Johnson County lacks jobs in close proximity to housing
There needs to be more of a focus on where housing is located in proximity to where people are working in the county, said Charlie Cowell, an urban planner with RDG Planning and Design, a Nebraska-based contractor that worked on the survey.
“Especially for lower income households being on transit lines or being near where they work can really help with overall cost they’re paying for transportation, which then can add more they can afford for housing,” Cowell said.
Earlier this year, Overland Park was ranked among the ten worst cities in which to live without a car by LawnStarter.
Issues such as a lack of public transportation and long commute times were just some of the reasons Johnson County’s largest city received unfavorable marks.
At Tuesday’s presentation, Cowell said if Johnson County focused more of its efforts into providing housing closer to job sites, it would alleviate some of these issues caused by the lack of transportation.
NIMBYism makes it hard to do affordable housing projects
Development projects in Johnson County that earned tax credits for offering affordable units were shifting to market price at a quicker rate than new affordable housing was coming in, according to the statewide assessment.
Not only that, Cowell said, but the mentality that many Johnson County residents have shared about these types of affordable housing projects could be summed up in one phrase, “Not in my backyard.”
“We found that it wasn’t necessarily one type of housing; it could be townhomes, multifamily, affordable units, it was really across the board,” Cowell said.
According to Cowell, these types of affordable housing projects often receive substantial pushback from residents who do not want them near their homes.
Due to this, the projects often have problems with getting approved, and therefore developers are at times reluctant to take risks on these types of developments.
Johnson Countians want more self-sustaining neighborhoods, not subdivisions
Many residents of Johnson County also expressed a desire to see more community-based housing areas, Cowell said, instead of simple single-family homes clustered together making bigger subdivisions.
“When we were talking to folks… they wanted that feeling of continuing to create neighborhoods,” Cowell said.
Ideas presented to the surveyors to produce these types of communities included the inclusion of shared amenities, such as walking paths and parks, in or near neighborhoods.
As part of the survey, some residents even remarked they would not mind seeing these “community clusters” near developments of commercial corridors or old shopping areas.
Rehabbing existing homes is also a priority
The Kansas Housing Resource Corporation says they plan to push several state and local strategies to both diversify and increase housing availability across Kansas once the full assessment is released.
Amy Haase, a principal at RDG, said while at first glance some may assume the solution to the state’s housing crisis is to simply build more affordable housing, the issue is much more complicated.
For instance, Haase said, the survey found more than 30% of homes in Kansas were built before 1960.
The state is now working on solutions to have more of these existing older homes rehabilitated and maintained to insure supply needs are expanding across all price ranges.
“With this study, we’ve been capturing stories, but most importantly we’ve been capturing ideas and solutions,” Haase said.