Johnson County to vote on $1 million loan for Shawnee affordable housing project this week

·3 min read
Hedge Land Developers

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners will vote Thursday on whether to invest $1 million in affordable housing in Shawnee.

At last week’s regular meeting, the board was asked by developers for $1 million of community support funds to help construct the Hedge Lane Apartments in Shawnee. The project is a joint venture between Sunflower Development Group and Consolidated Housing Solutions.

The apartment complex would have 144 units and be located on Hedge Lane Terrace in Shawnee. If the board approves the loan, units would likely be available to tenants by next spring or summer, Jay Leipzig, director of Planning, Housing and Community Development for Johnson County told The Star.

The apartments would be designated as workforce housing, meaning those who make less than 60% of the area’s median family income would qualify.

“The developer has the low-income housing support tax credits in hand and has gone through the approval processes with the city of Shawnee,” Leipzig said during the county board meeting, “but because of inflationary pressure, labor pressure and material pressure, they have a $1 million gap for the project.”

Leipzig said that they expect to lose 349 Housing Choice Voucher units since the beginning of 2020 to the end of 2022, and this project would help replace some of those units.

A one-bedroom unit at Hedge Lane Apartments would be about $1,100 and a two-bedroom would be about $1,300, said Jessica Hotaling, deputy director of Housing Services for Johnson County at the meeting. She said, however, that rent prices change annually and are set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There would be 42 one-bedroom units, 80 two-bedroom units and 22 three-bedroom units at Hedge Lane Apartments, according to documents from the developers.

During the meeting, Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick detailed a recent conversation she had with a woman who is being evicted after her apartment building changed management and will no longer accept housing vouchers.

“When we say workforce housing, that is what we mean. People who are working, we want them in our community, but we need to have more affordable housing for those kinds of folks,” Hanzlick said.

Leipzig said there is a 15-year note attached to the tax credits in an attempt to make the apartments affordable for longer.

“This would be a non-interest bearing, non-amortizing loan for the project,” Leipzig said. “At the end of the 15 years, there is a $850,000 balloon that could be assumed by a new buyer to extend that affordability period even further.”

According to a study by the United Community Services of Johnson County, almost half of Shawnee residents spend over 30% of their income on rent.

The cost of living in Johnson County is more than any other Kansas City area county, and there is only a 3 to 5% vacancy rate in Shawnee rental properties, compared to 7 to 8%, which is considered healthy.

Shawnee City Council also passed an ordinance on April 25 to limit the number of unrelated tenants living in one home to three. The decision faced major backlash, partly from residents who said they at one point could only afford to live with roommates.

County Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara expressed some concerns at the recent board meeting that loaning out money would attract more developers looking for cash from the county.

The board will vote on the issue Thursday at their regularly scheduled meeting.