At first Forward OP community conversation, affordable housing among top concerns for city’s future

Affordable Housing

Ensuring that residents of new apartment projects in downtown OP have access to grocery stores, gas stations and other services was among the concerns raised at Tuesday’s session.

Overland Park residents tackled issues from affordable housing to green space to public transit Tuesday night as the second phase of the city visioning process began.

Around 65 people gathered at the Matt Ross Community Center to work through ideas to improve that the city gleaned from residents online and at the Forward OP kickoff meeting in January. The object was to come up with specific suggestions for policies or programs.

Participants told moderators that affordable housing was a major concern for Overland Park moving forward. Photo credit Roxie Hammill.

Since the kickoff meeting, city staff and consultants from Planning NEXT of Columbus, Ohio, have studied more than 2,000 citizen suggestions and distilled them into the questions that fueled the roundtable discussions Tuesday. Other group sessions are planned for different times throughout the next two days.

Attendees were asked to discuss whether the city should have an entertainment venue anchored by a unique event venue, for instance. Other questions involved mixed-cost housing developments, a comprehensive waste and water management system, public transit, public green space in the heart of the city, and a government leadership development program to cultivate diverse candidates.

The affordable housing question drew the attention of several tables. Some residents said the city lacks enough low- and middle-income housing choices, making it difficult for young people to buy their first homes.

Chris Moll said he grew up in Overland Park and recently bought a home there after being away at college and spending a few years living in Midtown Kansas City. “It’s challenging to find a home in Overland Park big enough to start a family and still fit into a first home budget,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed at another table, where John Pickett said the city needs more affordable housing. “It’s an issue and we have to not forget about it,” he said.

Most new homes being built are 5,000 square feet and up, Moll said. But while it’s good to have strong home values, the lack of entry-level homes can cause people to choose other cities like Gardner and Blue Springs. Moll said he’d like to see incentives to build more starter homes and affordable homes sprinkled throughout the city.

Others, however, worried that low-income housing would bring more socio-economic problems into the city.

Attendees at another table said the city should take care that areas like downtown, which is expecting an influx of people from new apartment buildings, have adequate gas stations, groceries and other services for daily living.

The round-table phase will continue this week with nine other meetings and residents will also be able to comment online at the Forward OP website, starting Friday through May 15. The results of all this will be further distilled and presented in July.

Other meetings this week are:

Wednesday
noon at Johnson County Community College 4 p.m. at Overland Park Chamber of Commerce 6:30 p.m. at Shawnee Mission South High School.
Thursday
7:30 a.m. at Tomahawk Ridge Community Center 10 a.m. at Oak Park Mall noon at Central Resource Library 4 p.m. at Mazuma Credit Union 6:30 p.m. Blue Valley Hilltop Conference Center.

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