A rendering of a duplex under construction at 7509 Pennsylvania Ave. that aims to provide affordable rental rates for workers in the Waldo neighborhood. Kansas State University School of Architecture Design+Make Studio |

Students and professionals are building an affordable-rent duplex in Waldo

What happens when housing costs rise above the ability of a neighborhood’s workers to afford living there?

A team of Kansas City professionals and students at Kansas State University are tackling that question with a small project in the Waldo neighborhood.

They’re designing and building a duplex that they expect can be rented for about half of market rate apartment rentals in that area.

The project started with a vacant lot owned by Botwin Commercial Development at 7509 Pennsylvania Ave.

“Waldo is an eclectic and diverse neighborhood, and we wanted to support that,” said David Alpert, a partner at Botwin. “We looked at different options and stumbled on a collaboration with K-State’s Design+Make Studio, El Dorado Inc. and Studio Build.”

Partly because of the students’ work, the duplex will be built at a lower-than-normal cost, and those savings can be passed along to eventual renters, Alpert said.

The duplex will offer side-by-side units of 735 square feet each. Both will have two bedrooms and one bath along with a kitchen and living area.

The Botwin company will screen prospective tenants closer to completion of the duplex, likely in early summer. Tenants must qualify based on maximum household income.

“We’re targeting an individual earning in the range of $23,000 and, for a family of at least two people, an income in the $45,000 to $46,000 annual range,” Albert said. “The rent will be calculated at 30 percent of the renters’ annual income.”

That could mean a monthly rental rate for an individual of about $570 instead of the area’s market rate of about $1,060, for example.

Professional architects at el dorado are directing the K-State students under an academic partnership called Design+Make Studio that gives students real-world design experience before graduation.

The duplex is being built by Studio Build, a design and construction firm and Foster’s Inc. subcontractors. Equity Bank, Apex Engineers and Vinland Valley Nursery also are part of the project team.

“We don’t have specific plans to do the same thing again,” Alpert said, “but we’d certainly like to do a similar socially conscious project again in the neighborhood.”

The Botwin company two years ago sold property to reStart Housing Services Inc. for a 14-unit apartment building for supervised clients of reStart’s reDiscover Transitional Living Program which serves young people who age out of the foster care system.

The project at 7540 Washington St. initially faced some neighborhood dissent, but Alpert said the apartments have “been a really amazing story “ that houses some young people who also work in the Waldo neighborhood.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford