ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units), Affordability, Aging/Senior Population, Attainability, Codes, Community, Design Standards, Development, Home Improvement, Housing, Housing Security, Informational, Rebuilds, Seniors, Sustainability, Taxes, Teardowns, Zoning

Housing Recommendations: Let’s Review

Posted by Bonnie Limbird

1/20/2023 – *updated for clarification and correction of motion to remove multifamily from R1 consideration

Welcome to 2023!

For review, in 2022 an ad hoc committee on housing in PV, after months of study and discussion, presented recommendations to City Council which were then sent to the Planning Commission for review and possible implementation.

City Council, staff, and the ad hoc committee members have been approached by a group of Prairie Village residents with concerns about a couple of the bulletpoints. In the course of sharing their concerns, many things have been said: some true, some false, some inflammatory, and some just lacking context. Over the last few months, I have addressed a few of those, and so today I am consolidating those previous posts and addressing more things that have been said that didn’t require a full post of their own. All links herein are important documents to read, and I hope everyone will take the time to do so. I know it’s a lot, so thank you in advance. 😉

The point of this is to share that the City Council has Prairie Village and our PV residents’ best interests at heart, and we’re right alongside you with wanting to retain the great things about our community while still improving areas where we lack and making us more successful into the future. Acknowledging and having discussions about housing issues in our community are an important part of our service to you. Shutting down the conversation entirely, as some have demanded, would be doing you a disservice, so we are letting the process play out and we will all learn more from the effort.

With that, here are some things we’ve heard:

  • Councilmembers don’t know what attainable is: Attainability is defined in several places.
  • The Council wants to put high-rise, low-income projects in the middle of R1 and R2 blocks: That’s not what Village Vision (1) or Village Vision 2.0 say. And we’re targeting attainable, not low-income.
  • Council isn’t listening to their constituents: Council voted to remove *multifamily considerations in R1 and R2 (R2 already is multifamily) from the recommendations based solely on public input. We are 100% listening to the opponents, the proponents, and everyone in between.
  • Council is using KC metro AMI instead of PV AMI to determine attainability: It doesn’t matter. It moves the goalpost a little, but not enough to be valid. PV uses the KC metro AMI for our programs as standard practice (exterior housing grant, tax rebate program), but even if we did use PV’s AMI here, all of our new housing is being built in the “luxury” range and those houses are literally replacing “attainable” homes one-for-one.
  • Village Vision 2.0 had less than 1% interaction and it was during a pandemic”; “it should be redone“: Actually, that assertion is not true either. Half of the planned in-person engagement for Village Vision 2.0 was complete before the pandemic even started, and overall the engagement on 2.0 was nearly as high as the engagement on the original version because of the ubiquitous availability of new online survey tools by late 2020. But regrettably, neither version’s planning process had very high engagement.
  • “It’s a solution with no problem.”, “What are we even trying to solve?”: We do have a problem, not only this, but this as well.
  • ADUs will hurt our neighborhoods: Not according to this from ShelterForce, this from AARP, this also from AARP, and this from Strong Towns. There are many more resources out there.
  • This is coming from UCS’s housing study, and United Community Services is a left wing policy mill pushing “woke”-ism and handouts(I paraphrase):
    • First, it’s important to note that it is not UCS’ housing study and task force. UCS was the planning facilitator for 19 cities, the county, and a multi-sector task force who led this work. Outside consultants with housing study expertise conducted both processes.
    • Also, UCS has been around for 55 years, and is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit which abides by the regulations governing this designation. The history and culture of the organization is one rooted in data analysis, research, planning, and resource allocation around issues that impact the well-being of our residents. The UCS board is traditionally comprised of City and County representation (both elected and professional staff), faith leaders, health care, legal, business, and community leaders. The board composition assures the organization is reflective and responsive to larger community needs. 
    • We can thank UCS’s research work over the last 5 decades for things like the Johnson County Mental Health Co-Responder Program (which PV Police Dept. participates in), the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District (JCPRD), and the after-school programming in public schools provided by JCPRD and the YMCA which provide thousands of Johnson County children with before and after school care.
    • Lastly, the ad hoc committee used the toolkit that came out of the county study as a jumping off point for fuller discussions as related specifically to Prairie Village and the Village Vision 2.0 comprehensive plan.
  • The UCS Housing Study doesn’t even say Prairie Village needs more housing: Not true.
  • We need to be looking at the Neighborhood Design Standards, not zoning: To that, I say, “Yes, and!” Yes, we do need to look at the Neighborhood Design Standards again, AND we need to look at zoning, AND we need to look at maintaining existing homes, AND on and on and on. There is no silver bullet. We need to look at all the things to figure out how to achieve a diverse housing stock and remain a viable and desirable community into the next 20 years and beyond.
  • “No one in Prairie Village wants this change.”, “Most Prairie Village residents are against this change.”: Actually there are just as many in vocal support of the conversation for change as there are against.
  • Council can’t control rent or house prices. There’s no way to make sure this new housing is even going to be attainable: No one on Council or the ad hoc committee has ever asserted that the City can control rent or housing prices. However, thoughtful policy decisions on the Council’s part (based on Planning Commission input) can lead to increased housing stock, reinvestment in existing stock, and being able to meet housing demand to bring down costs naturally.
  • “Prairie Village is the densest city in the state/area/county.”: The populated areas of Merriam are more dense than Prairie Village, and the north side of Overland Park is more dense than Prairie Village. It’s misleading to compare 6 square miles of fully developed Prairie Village with the larger surrounding cities who have massive tracts of commercial and industrial developments. It’s a straw man fallacy.
  • “The schools are overcrowded already!“: Student population fluctuates from decade to decade. Prairie Village has a lower population now (22,878) than it did in the 70s (28,000!!!). Our city has room for growth, and even the original VV calls for growing our population back up toward 1970s numbers. SMSD divested two properties in Prairie Village when their student population decreased in the early 00s, and maybe that was the right thing for them to do for the district at that time, but that doesn’t mean that PV is stuck at this level forever because of that. It is incumbent upon SMSD to strategically plan for their population fluctuations and design for the future.

Housing is a critical planning issue in cities, even in Prairie Village which for all intents and purposes appears to be fully developed. Housing issues put a premium on planning for strong, resilient neighborhoods, and establishing strategies to address the dynamic housing market that are appropriate to the local, metropolitan, and regional context now and into the future. (See lower tab “Housing Issues” at link above.)

Community Vision Statement
“The City of Prairie Village preserves the ambiance of a village with the livability of a neighborhood.  The “village’ lifestyle is enhanced by quality education, a variety of housing options, recreation and local commerce in pedestrian friendly centers.”

It is the Governing Body’s job to always be planning for the future of our community, right alongside all the planning and day-to-day tasks done for today’s community and residents, and this conversation supports that mission. I hope you’ll follow along.

Here’s to a good year! 🥂

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