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Permits for duplexes in Wichita nearly doubled in 2022. It hasn’t come without concern.

A neighborhood of single-family homes sits across from an undeveloped field in west Wichita. A developer has proposed a plan to build single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and townhomes on the field.
Celia Hack
A neighborhood of single-family homes sits across from an undeveloped field in west Wichita. A developer has proposed a plan to build single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and townhomes on the field.

Duplex developments are typically more affordable, but some residents don’t want them in their neighborhood.

The rising number of duplex developments in Wichita is bringing with it a tension between some neighborhoods and the demand for more affordable housing.

The number of building permits issued in Wichita for two-family residential homes nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022, from 410 to 750.

Stan Longhofer, director of Wichita State University’s Center for Real Estate, said many of the new duplex units are developed as subdivisions and for rental purposes. He added that the uptick in duplexes comes as developers seek to make up for a shortage of housing construction in Wichita since the financial crisis.

But as duplexes spring up, some neighborhoods worry what it means for their property values and quality of life.

Earlier this month, residents in a west Wichita neighborhood set a record for the number of petitions received by the Metropolitan Area Planning Department after a developer applied to rezone single-family land into one that allowed for duplexes, triplexes and townhomes. The land at 135th and Central is currently undeveloped.

“Single-family dwellings are fine with me,” Linda Stamback said at a District 5 Advisory Board meeting. “I am concerned about duplexes and triplexes and that kind of thing because that kind of thing brings in people who aren’t buying the property necessarily, they’re renting.”

Her comment was echoed several times by others at the meeting. Stamback said she worries about transient neighbors, renters that don’t take care of their property, increased traffic, crime and even flooding as a result of more development.

“We leased a house right next to a bunch of duplexes before we bought this,” Stamback said. “The neighbors always were changing. … People don’t take care of things as well if they don’t own it themselves.”

The concerns are more widespread than one neighborhood in west Wichita. At a Goddard City Council meeting this month, several residents spoke out against a zoning case that would allow a new duplex development.

Duplexes may concern some neighborhoods, but they’re also a boon to an expensive housing market.

“Duplexes … can help reduce some of the construction costs, allowing a home builder to get in at a lower price point and offer a new home at a price point that's more affordable,” Longhofer said.

Longhofer said the city of Lawrence relies on duplexes as a starter home market.

Multiple research studies, from the Cato Institute to the National Bureau of Economic Research, show that zoning regulations — the tool local governments use to control land use — are associated with rising home prices.

The development proposed in west Wichita will not necessarily be affordable by city-wide standards. Brian Lindebak, who represented developer Perfection Builders at the District 5 Advisory Board meeting, said that units in the development would be “large, affluent houses” and estimated their price point between $300,000 and $700,000.

Lindebak said, though, that the developer wanted to offer duplexes, triplexes and townhouses to provide a broader range of price points.

“Not everyone can afford the houses that are in their previous developments, so they’re trying to open up some new markets,” Lindebak said. “So that’s the reason for having some of the different styled housing, multifamily housing.”

Wichita is struggling to meet its affordable housing needs. A 2021 study found the city had a deficit of 44,000 affordable housing units. Zillow estimates that home values in Wichita increased nearly 10% from 2021 to 2022.

City Council member Bryan Frye oversees the west Wichita district with the new development. He says he wants to balance affordability with neighbors’ concerns by asking developers to ensure their proposals fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.

The city of Wichita is currently considering duplex design standards for developments in the center of the city to “help ensure that the new buildings are sensitive of existing neighborhood context and design.”

“There’s got to be multiple solutions for affordable housing, and a single-family resident building doesn’t work for everyone these days,” Frye said.

Frye said a solution for the development at 135th and Central is to request that the developer puts single-family homes along the south end of the development, while duplexes and other multifamily options will go on the north end. Protests to the zoning change came from the neighborhood to the south, Frye said.

Stamback lives south of the development, and said she’s comfortable with this solution.

“I’m pretty reconciled with that,” Stamback said.

But she said there’s another developer looking to rezone a different property near her home for two-family and multifamily units — so the conversation isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Everyone’s worked really hard here to have a nice community,” Stamback said. “And really we don’t want a lot of transient people. We want people who own their own places, so they take care of them.”

Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.