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BOCC reviews housing study results

Ensuring attainable housing choice options remains a high priority for the Board of County Commissioners. A housing market and needs assessment study, involving Johnson County, its 19 city partners and United Community Services was recently concluded. On Thursday, April 8, during a Committee of the Whole meeting, the board got the opportunity to hear a summary of the 319-page draft study results. 

“The study is the culmination of nearly four years of work around the health priority issue of safe, stable, attainable housing,” said United Community Services of Johnson County Executive Director Julie Brewer. “Where you live, learn, work, play and pray impacts your health.” 

The work began in July of 2017, with grant support from the Kansas Health Foundation’s Healthy Community initiative and REACH Healthcare Foundation. UCS convened the Johnson County Health Equity Leadership team made up of a wide range of community organizations, businesses and cities. The leadership team spent a year conducting research and community listening, which led to the identification of housing as a priority health issue for the county.
The county and cities-supported community housing study was a key component of a Healthy Community Initiative and included demographic profiles, economic analysis, listening sessions and surveys with residents, employers and rental property owners/managers. 

In reviewing the study results, Brewer also shared that the most recent Census data showed approximately 40% of Johnson County renters were housing cost burdened, meaning they’re paying more than 30% of their income on housing. The same was true for 18% of homeowners. Brewer also shared that on average, during the last five years, more than 138,000 Johnson County jobs fell into three occupational groups – office and administration support; sales; and food preparation and serving. These occupations, representing 40% of all jobs in the county, have a median annual wage of between $20,039-$35,480.
Brewer says if you look beyond occupations, you can also see income disparities by race and gender. 

The community housing study includes data that shows:

  • Multi-family units are not spatially distributed among cities.
  • Johnson County will continue to see population growth.
  • Demand for units is needed across all price points and home types.
  • Households that rent have more difficulty finding attainable options than those that can purchase.
  • For most cities in Johnson County, incomes have risen less than both home and rental costs in the past decade.
  • For workers making less than $1,250 per month, nearly half are under the age of 30.

Goals from the study include:

  • Establish housing advocates
  • Create mechanisms to share risk (public/private partnerships)
  • Preserve and rehabilitate existing attainable housing
  • Increase the variety of product types, especially in middle-density
  • Remove code uncertainties in the development process
  • Prioritize funding/incentives for attainable housing adjacent to jobs and transportation
  • Connect existing housing resources and fill gaps left by the private market

In addition to the study, that was completed at the end of 2020, a community housing task force was also convened and began its work in February 2021.  More than 200 community members signed up to participate in the task force. The housing study and task force were facilitated by UCS and its consultants. UCS is a partner in the county’s efforts to identify and work toward solutions for issues impacting our community, such as housing, food, health care access, and other basic needs.  

In response to the presentation surrounding homelessness and housing affordability, the BOCC formed a subcommittee to follow up on the housing study and offer suggestions for next steps for the commission. A toolkit will be offered in the coming months to communities to implement solutions.

Watch the Committee of the Whole meeting. Read the housing study. You can also watch a webcast or listen to a podcast episode about housing in Johnson County, as a public health issue.


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