"Tenants to Homeowners Inc." have been providing a form of affordable housing since 1992. Initially, and for a number of years after that, their approach was to acquire and rehabilitate houses, or acquire land and build a house on it, and sell the house and the land to persons who could not qualify for market based mortgages. They also rehabilitated or built houses for rental. Brook Creek Neighborhood supported them and worked with them for these kinds of affordability.
Today, TTH, Inc. is trying to take advantage of emerging land use policy that favors infill density rather than urban sprawl. They have proposed a double-density zoning provision to permit building two houses on one single-family zoned lot. They want this duplex use to be allowed by right, automatically without rezoning a property to a duplex zone, without notification of adjoining property owners or the neighborhood, without the right of a legal protest petition, and without the right of the neighborhood to a public hearing. All that TTH would provide in return is an assurance that the house would be priced affordably. They would halve the cost of the land while keeping their same price structure for the houses.
Brook Creek Neighborhood does not support double-density for affordability. The eastern neighborhoods are already the most dense part of Lawrence. And Brook Creek already has the highest concentration of poverty housing - three mobile home parks of about 275 units, the 130 Housing Authority units at Edgewood Homes, a scattering of Habitat for Humanity homes, and 41 units by Tenants to Homeowners. All the 106 TTH lots are east of Iowa St., and eight of the nine mobile home parks are east of Iowa St., six of them east of Massachusetts St. There are better ways to affordability than crowding, with the negative impacts on the project residents and on the neighborhood at large.
For all their community hype, TTH, Inc. no longer operates as a truly effective affordable housing agency. Sometime in the mid-2000s, TTH, Inc. changed their land tenure model to be similar to, but deviating from, a genuine Community Land Trust (CLT). The key deviation is that they severed ownership of the house from ownership of the land it was built upon. This prevents the person buying the house from capturing equity on the land under the house, and subsequently lifting themselves from poverty. Legally, this also renders the house no longer as real property for the buyer, but as personal property that will depreciate in value (in effect a mobile home without wheels).
Another deviation from a genuine CKT is that the home buyer contract does not provide for the purchaser to become a shareholder-member of the Lawrence Community Housing Trust (LCHT). In a genuine CLT, home buyers hold a share of equity in the land as tenants in common. Instead, LCHT membership is merely an informal option for anyone of the general public, with no financial commitment, no financial return, and only an indirect vote in the governance of the LCHT.
Better affordability solutions:
- Build net-zero energy homes super insulated, solar electricity, mini-splits for HVAC all of which reduce utilities to zero or near zero, which is about 1/3 of homeowner financial burdens.
- Reduce mortgage costs by establishing energy efficient mortgages through home rule, that qualify for reduced interest rates.
- Adopt rent control (rents currently are rising at twice the inflation rate).
- Eliminate non-owner-occupied short term rentals that are siphoning off affordable rental housing from the market.
- Restructure the aberration of the Lawrence Community Housing Trust (LCHT) to be a genuine CLT, in which home buyers are equal member-share holders in owning the land, the real property.
- Adopt a $15/hr. living wage ordinance.