Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2001

A bedroom community

Census shows city supports renters

August 9, 2001

Compared to college towns like Lawrence and Manhattan or a metropolitan city like New York, Eudora may not be the most likely place for renters to live.

Yet the 2000 census shows Eudora has 39 percent of its residents living in rented houses, apartments, townhouses or duplexes. That's 10 percent more than the state average.

According to two landlords with property in Eudora, part of the town's status as a bedroom community where people live while working elsewhere heightens the need for rental property.

"Eudora has always been kind of a bedroom community," Richard Campbell said. Campbell rents houses and is a member of the planning commission. "When the plant (Sunflower Army Ammunition) was being built there was a huge demand then, and maybe that's carried over."

Campbell said his renters include people who live in Eudora as a convenience.

"One will work in Kansas City or Lawrence, and it's a good halfway point."

Troy Gregory, who rents duplexes and townhouses and is a partner in the Greenway Apartments, said he sees a lot of commuters in his tenants.

"Not very many of them are people that work in Eudora," Gregory said. "Most work over in Johnson County or Topeka or Lawrence. Eudora is kind of halfway."

For Gregory, that means the majority of his tenants are younger families, although they span the age range from early 20s to late 60s.

Still, Eudora seems like an unlikely spot for developers to build rental property.

Gregory said zoning and location had a lot do to with his apartments and townhouses near 15th and Church streets, just off K-10. The land was already zoned for that type of property, and easy access to the highway makes the location convenient for commuters.

A few years ago when Gregory was setting up shop, the price in Eudora was right.

"At the time, it was a lot cheaper to buy land in Eudora than in Lawrence, and you could almost get the same amount of rent," Gregory said. "Your mill levy used to be really low. From an investor's standpoint, it looked like a better deal. Eudora was an attractive market at the time."

Campbell speculated some of Eudora's older houses seemed like logical places to rent to tenants. He said rental houses have a different feel than do apartments.

"A lot of people have been there for years," he said. "The houses are more permanent, I would say. But you need all different things in your town, so there are choices for all different situations."

The census also shows that about 4 percent of Eudora rental property is vacant. That sounds about right, Gregory said. He estimated his rental property was about 96 percent occupied.

But towns don't always welcome rental property. In Lawrence, where more than half of households are rented, some homeowners oppose rental property encroaching on their neighborhoods, citing declining neighborhood school attendance and property value, noise and poor upkeep as factors.

In Eudora, Gregory hasn't experienced problems because his area was zoned for that type of housing already.

"Eudora didn't really have anything like the Greenway Apartments we built," he said. "That's a big project for a town the size of Eudora. The city commission was really good."

As a member of the planning commission and a landlord, Campbell said some Eudorans weren't always thrilled about rental property developments. He said opponents became visible when talk of duplex zoning comes up.

"They always say the same reasons devalued property, traffic congestion and so forth," Campbell said.

Moreover, renters are a mobile group who won't stay put long, he said.

"In hindsight, I've heard a lot of people say, 'We wish we'd had that. That would have been better than what's there now,'" he said.

The type of community found in Eudora draws renters, too. Gregory said some renters looked to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and suburbs.

"Eudora is well-liked by a number of people," he said. "It's a nice, quiet kind of town. They don't have to have all the traffic in town and all the business. It's got that small-town feel."

More simply put, Campbell said, "It's a nice place to live."

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