Hello, readers! This week is all about the local stuff, including notes on an interview with the executive director of the Lincoln Housing Authority, street reconfigurations in Lincoln, and celebrations of bike sharing and bike beer-touring.
The updates will be along R St. in Lincoln from 12th to 16th St. Parking will move from a mix of parallel and angled to all parallel, which will enable adding bike lanes running east and west. UNL's newsroom says "the reconfiguration will allow for safer sight distances at crosswalks along R St., improving pedestrian safety along the busy campus roadway."
Remain calm, parking enthusiasts! Though some parking on R St. is being lost, the city recently added parking along 16th and 17th St. to bring a net gain in the area of 17 stalls.
Thursday on the local radio show Drive Time Lincoln, co-hosts (and local elected officials) Don Mayhew and Roy Christensen spoke with Chris Lamberty of the Lincoln Housing Authority. I took some notes on the conversation just for you, dear reader.
The Lincoln Housing Authority is a public organization that is nearly entirely federally funded, with "a mission to provide affordable housing for the city of Lincoln." It owns & manages about 1500 affordable rental units (including apartment buildings, duplexes, and even single-family homes) throughout the city. Its largest program is the Housing Choice Voucher program (aka Section 8), a federally funded program that serves 3000 households monthly. It also has services to help people stay in their homes/get back on their feet, and partnerships to serve targeted populations like the elderly and victims of domestic violence. About 55 to 60 percent of people served by LHA are seniors or people with disabilities. 87-90% of the remaining population are working, and most of the rest are in educational programs.
LHA defines housing affordability as being able to pay no more than 30% of your income on total housing costs.
Lamberty is excited about the greater recognition that's developing in town about the lack of afforable housing. A representative from the Chamber of Commerce has recently acknowledged the issue of affordable housing on another episode of Drive Time Lincoln, which he sees as very promising, and residents and even elected officials are engaging in more and more conversations about affordable housing.
Challenges in Lincoln include: years of a tight rental market, leading to rents increasing faster than incomes.
The long term goal of LHA is to increase the supply of affordable housing. We need to build more housing, including housing that is intentionally affordable to people with lower incomes. Due to construction and other costs, this can't be done without public subsidies, and some are available via federal tax credits coordinated by NIFA (the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority). We need to bring more of those funds to Lincoln - most of the projects funded in Nebraska go to Omaha, but demand certainly exists in Lincoln.
Another challenge is that the federal government has not substantially increased the number of households that the voucher program can serve for about 20 or 30 years. Housing is not an entitlement program - the number of households served is entirely based on what gets funded each year, not on the total need. The current waiting list for a rental subsidy voucher is about 4,500 households - 1500 more than the total number currently served by the program.
There are more renters proportionally to homeowners than there were 10 years ago. To afford a two-bedroom apartment in Lincoln, you need to be making $16 or more an hour, Lamberty says. Many people simply aren't, and we'd need a drastic increase in supply to bring prices down to levels that people at the lowest end of the income scales can afford.
Mayhew asks "Why should we as taxpayers be concerned with where people live? Can't people move outside of town if they can't afford to live in Lincoln?" Lamberty replies that the alternative isn't moving outside of town; the alternative is typically homelessness. (Cassey notes: I don't know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.)
Asked what his dream policy would be for Lincoln, Lamberty replies that he'd love to see a concerted effort to get more housing built throughout the city, at all levels of housing. He may be referring there to how it is currently illegal to build anything other than expensive single-family homes in much of town, despite the demand for more affordable and convenient rental living.
A reporter for 10/11 News in Lincoln asked a woman at Tour de Brew why she was biking in the heat. Her response? "I'm hardcore AF and I like beer."
Bike LNK, the bike share program in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, has existed for 15 months and just marked its 50,000th ride. A graphic shared on Facebook notes that the most popular stations are at 14th & R (8744 checkouts), 11th & P (5102 checkouts), and 12th & Q (4486 checkouts). 33,000 of the rides have been on annual passes, 11,500 on 'quick tripper' rides (a pass you can purchase for one ride only). Around 4,000 rides have been on monthly passes, and the remainder (~1,000) have been 'visiting voyager' passes - unlimited 30 minute trips for 72 hours.
According to folks on social media (read: I couldn't find a better source) Lincoln City Councilman Bennie Shobe said at one point that keeping children safe by requiring gun owners to keep their guns locked up wasn't on his priority list because he's concerned about child injuries from traffic. Seemingly over night, a Facebook group claiming to be the Lincoln Coalition to Stop Child Traffic Injuries sprung up. We'll be keeping an eye on this back at HQ. (read: I liked the page from my couch at home)
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