Welcome, readers! This week, learn about new research in housing & bicycle safety, the permit process for a new accessory dwelling unit, a transit advocate's perspective on the new transit hub proposed for downtown LNK, and more.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota sent out grad students on bikes equipped with sensors that tracked how close cars came to the bicyclists as they rode certain routes around Hennepin County. The bicyclists were passed nearly 3000 times by cars, and 33 of those cars came closer to the rider than the legally-mandated 36 inches. (That's the same distance as is required legally in Lincoln, NE.) Of those 33 incidents, though, 73% happened to the female rider. Two of three riders in the study were male, but those two were encroached on just a fourth of the time.
Astute statistical observers will note that the whole study followed just 3 riders, and while the study authors claim each cyclist kept a prescribed distance from the curb the whole time, it would be interesting to see this study replicated with more riders of all genders taking part.
VP of LNK's Citizens for Improved Transit calls for a grid system for Star Tran to replace the hub & spoke model
Ralph Hayden, Vice President of the grassroots Lincoln group Citizens for Improved Transit, writes in the Lincoln Journal Star that building a new transit hub in the downtown area, as was discussed last week by city officials, will create incentives for the city to keep using the hub & spoke model of bus routes.
Hayden explains that Lincoln's current hub & spoke model routes most cross-town trips through downtown, which in an increasingly sprawling city makes trips that would be 20 minutes in a car take up to an hour. He suggests moving to a more grid-like system with routes that align with major streets cutting across town, enabling easier connections to other bus lines.
New research from Evan Mast suggests that new construction of market rate housing tends to draw some residents from poorer areas to the new buildings, loosening up demand in the lower-income areas. Therefore, new market-rate construction reduces upward pressures on housing costs in lower-income areas and increases overall affordability.
Mast also notes that nevertheless, there are inherent costs in providing housing that create a floor for how low prices can go. This means that even with increased market rate housing construction, some subsidies will still be required to help folks at the lowest ends of the income scales afford the place they live. This lines up with what I've heard from folks in the housing and development industries, who claim that it's simply not possible for the market to provide affordable housing without a subsidy to people earning less than 80% of area median income.
The Lincoln Police Department's Facebook page has gone explicitly pro-bike lately, declaring on July 24 that "Lincoln is a bike city!". Multiple posts have gone up, including this one, encouraging drivers to share the road with cyclists and give them their full 3 feet of buffer space.
Application for a permit to build an accessory dwelling unit approved by the LNK Planning Commission
At the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Commission meeting on July 10, commissioners heard a request to build a new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on NW 27th St.. The permit included a request for a few waivers for the size and septic tank requirements on the new building.
The applicants hope to build an ADU (a small house on the same lot as a single-family home) so that their father can stay in the primary house as he ages, while the applicants can live nearby to take care of him. This is one of the most common motivations you typically hear for building ADUs, and is even represented in a colloquial term you might hear for the concept: the "granny flat". Lancaster County began allowing ADUs, by special permit only, in December of 2018. The appointed members of the Planning Commission vote to approve or deny each permit.
At this meeting, Planning Commissioner Corr wondered why the applicant was building an ADU at all and not a house; the applicant explained that the lot was not big enough to subdivide and build another house based on the zone its placed in. One wonders if the lot had been bigger or zoned differently, if the planning commission would have required this family to build a bigger house instead of saving money by building a smaller building. We can't really know- but we do know this permit was approved pending appeals filed in the immediate 14 days following the meeting.
Short answer: bad weather and engineering challenges.
Ben Carson was in Omaha last week, touting the success of urban redevelopment projects. A development called Highlander was of particular focus, where Carson appreciated that it was a mixed income residence (some units are subsidized to make them more affordable, while others are market-rate). Carson also emphasized the need for housing services to focus on the people more than just the housing. If this idea interests you, you might also want to read this piece on providing other services as part of public housing projects.
The study is funded in part by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, and will look at the current state of the housing stock in Sarpy County, as well as what needs remain. A 5-year-plan for new and rehabilitated housing is one of the deliverables.
Notably, the executive director of NIFA, Tim Kenny, is quoted as saying "Every (community) in the state is behind on affordable housing."
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