Johnson County Board of County Commissioners approves new measures to help address affordable housing

County commissioners sit at the dais during a Board of County Commissioners meeting

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday approved four new measures designed to support affordable housing options in the community.

“Improving housing options for our residents is one of our key priorities,” said Mike Kelly, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. “By focusing on this issue and supporting affordable housing options, we also boost economic growth and help our residents achieve a better future for themselves and for their families.”

Habitat for Humanity Olathe Pathway Project

The BOCC allocated $950,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to fund infrastructure costs for a potential new Habitat for Humanity project at 159th Street and Black Bob Road in Olathe. If approved by the city of Olathe, the development is expected to include 20 build-to-suit homes for low-income families. Again, if approved, Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City is expected to break ground on the project in August.

Buyers would qualify if they have incomes between 30 and 80 percent of area median income. At the high end, that’s roughly $54,000 for an individual or more, depending on household size. The subsidized mortgages make homeownership available to residents working in fields such as public education, public safety, childcare, home health care or logistics park operations. Homeowners will not pay more than 30 percent of their gross income toward their mortgage.

Habitat for Humanity also puts several additional criteria in place, including two years of steady income, limits on non-medical debt and 350 hours of sweat equity, including homeowner education classes.

Habitat for Humanity is also requesting $1 million in funding from the City of Olathe, which is going through its own approval process to designate federal funds for the project.

“Olathe Pathway is a wonderful public-private partnership that we hope can serve as a template for  charitable organizations interested in being part of the solution to add more affordable housing options in our community,” said Megan Foreman, housing coordinator for Johnson County.

The homes built as part of the project, if approved, will be placed in a land trust that will ensure that the housing remains affordable for low-income buyers for generations to come. When an original owner is ready to move, the land trust compensates them with a percentage of the equity in their home and then re-sells it to another qualified low-income buyer at a subsidized rate.

Landlord Incentive and Risk Mitigation Fund pilot programs

The BOCC also approved $200,000 in federal COVID-19 funds to fund a pilot program that would provide landlords with financial incentives to rent their units to low-income tenants with federally funded housing subsidy vouchers.

Between 2019 and 2022, Johnson County saw fewer landlords participating in the voucher program, and many vouchers expire because they go unused when a tenant cannot find a unit to  rent.

The amount of money landlords would receive would vary depending on the size of the unit. The pilot program would not meet all of the existing needs, but would allow housing officials to determine the right mix of incentives that would encourage participation.

The incentive program would complement another pilot program that the BOCC approved on Thursday to provide a risk mitigation fund for landlords.

The fund, which received $50,000 in support from the county’s general fund reserves, would reimburse landlords for damages or lost rent if the tenant moves out early, after any security deposit is applied.

Housing Trust Fund

The BOCC also approved a request from Chairman Kelly to authorize the County Manager’s Office to review and evaluate the feasibility of establishing a Housing Trust Fund.

A Housing Trust Fund would support the preservation of affordable housing and develop additional  financing mechanisms to increase the number of affordable homes in the county.

The measure called for a report on the fund to be delivered to the BOCC within 60 days.

Board of County Commissioners
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