Housing and Neighborhoods -- Challenges and Opportunities

Housing and neighborhoods are a key component to community livability.  Indicators such as median home price and proximity to urban services inform people relocating to an area of what they can expect from a community in terms of affordability and desire to maintain a “livable” community as it grows.

The authenticity of a newly developed community is directly related to how well it reflects the social, cultural and economic diversity of the larger region. Housing affordability contributes directly to diversity and, over time, enhances the sense of place. A community can be considered successful if its housing inventory offers a range of options and costs that is proportional to the makeup of its residents and employees and their ability to pay for housing. A successful range of housing choices will include ample options on the lower end as well as the upper end of housing prices. The beneficiaries are not only community residents, but also employers that are able to draw from a greater variety of potential employees.

Specific indicators in this section include:

  • Median Home Price
  • Proximity to Urban Services
  • Standard for Key Areas or Level of Quality Development
  • Range of Housing Inventory

Today

The City of Olathe has a very affordable housing stock, compared to both other communities and to the national average. The median home price in Olathe is approximately $190,600 compared to a national average of $206,500. Several surveyed communities with similar growth and demographic characteristics have median home prices that are more than double that of Olathe. At 1.6 jobs per household, the job/housing balance in Olathe is close to the national average of 1.7.  Overall, this is still slightly better than most compared communities.  Olathe’s lower median home prices, coupled with higher than average incomes, provides for greater levels of discretionary income that can enhance citizen’s quality of life. Olathe also scores just above average in proximity to urban services with a score of 6 out of 10. The proximity of urban services score is based upon the distribution of grocery store-anchored shopping centers and their distance to housing. The national average is 5.

In the Future

Housing challenges facing Olathe are many. How will new residential neighborhoods be designed as more accessible and inclusive? How can frequently used services, like a grocery store, be sited within a reasonable distance from housing? How will the community maintain housing affordability while promoting high quality architecture and design?

These challenges relate to increasing density, diversifying the housing product mix, providing the full range of housing price points and closer proximity to services.

Under the proposed Future Land Use Plan, Olathe will provide a greater opportunity for a range of housing types, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, accessory dwelling units, and apartments, which will allow for a range of housing affordability, style, and size.

Distances to commercial centers have been measured as part of the Quality of Life analysis. One of the most important measurements is based on the ability of pedestrians to access these activity areas. The primary pedestrian commute that was measured has a radius of 1,320 feet (1/4 mile) and roughly equates to a five-minute walk. As a point a reference, the typical block in Olathe is about 500 feet in length. A second measurement includes the dimension of the one-half mile (10 minute) walk. Walking distances tend to lengthen up to 10 minutes when the destination is work, school or a transit stop as long as the pedestrian experience is safe and appealing. Once walking distances exceed 10 minutes, the temptation to drive a car usually wins out.

As the following table indicates, the number of residents within close proximity to commercial centers will increase as new centers are constructed and higher densities are focused around employment and activity centers. It’s noteworthy that centers will allow more than 2/3 of Olathe’s ultimate population to live within ½ mile of a center, which will likely result in a higher probability to walk or use a bicycle for these trips.

More robust principles and policies have been incorporated into the plan that protect or enhance neighborhoods through better design quality.  Design policies focus primarily on design components that help create vibrant, safe and integrated neighborhoods: great parks and public spaces, provision of a variety of housing types, and transportation elements that support walkability. No specific policies are included that address building style and materials, since these elements can materially increase housing costs, Improved design is called for in both newly developing neighborhoods as well as existing areas where buildings need rehabilitation and there is the potential for infill and redevelopment to occur.