With many city officials concerned about the abundance of multifamily housing in Blue Springs, a task force has been convened to look at other cities' policies and ways to address the issue.
One way to confront multifamily housing in Blue Springs is to educate the owners and managers.
That bit of information was some of the new information given Thursday night as the newly formed Multifamily Task Force held its first meeting.
Most of the hour-long meeting was devoted to introductions of members and guests, as well as discussion of background information about multifamily housing in the city.
City Council Member Sheila Solon, who chairs the task force, said it will give a presentation Aug. 18 to council members. Mayor Carson Ross created the task force in mid-May to help combat what the council sees as a problem of an imbalance of housing, with too many multifamily units. A 90-day moratorium on multifamily housing is in effect while the task force addresses the issue.
And a problem it is, task force members agree.
Not since 2000 has the city had an acceptable ratio of single-family and multifamily homes. Ideally, about 25 percent in the city would be multifamily and 75 percent single-family, but such figures have slipped, according to city officials.
Since 2000, a combined 1,190 building permits were issued for duplexes and multifamily homes (three or more homes in a single unit), compared to 1,488 permits issued for single-family homes.
In addition, 18 properties have been rezoned since 2001 to reflect multifamily projects, according to Scott Allen, director of Community Development.
In all, Blue Springs has a smaller percentage of apartment buildings that many metro areas, but the city still has a fair share, according to task force members.
Janet Jarvis, who works on rental issues for the Police Department, said there’s a preconceived notion that the more rental units a city has, the more crime there is. But that’s not necessarily true, she said.
“The problem comes with any high-density area,” she said.
Blue Springs, with a population of about 55,000, is one of the most compact cities in the metropolitan area, according to officials.
To combat the issue, Jarvis said, the city and police must work with existing building owners and managers and educate them about what they can do to recognize and prevent unwelcome activity. Training topics include recognizing potential problem tenants and preventative skills that make a property less attractive to problem tenants.
“By educating the managers, you see a significant decrease in crime,” Jarvis said. “The number of incidents goes down. That’s true across the country.”
The training is offered by the city, Jarvis said, and a small percentage of property owners and managers in Blue Springs have taken the course. Attorneys offer free education about landlord and tenant laws as well.
“But it’s been a challenge to get those owners who change properties frequently,” she said. “And there are the issues of ownership and employee turnover.”
Jarvis also said the issue isn’t exclusive to multifamily units, but also single-family homes that are rented and whose owners live elsewhere.
“We’re seeing that more and more.”
When it comes to the local school system, multifamily housing has brought some strain. The school district has added buses because of The Villas at Adams Dairy Parkway and Gateway Plaza in the Thomas Ultican Elementary School attendance area.
The district has added four full-time police officers since 2002, and the percentage of free and reduced-lunch meals has increased from 10 percent in 2003 to 19 percent this year.
In the coming weeks, Solon said the task force will examine a recently enacted multifamily policy in Lee’s Summit, as well as tour properties in that city to better understand building design.