Arrangements are being made to help Kansas City’s growing houseless population, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced today at a news conference outside the nonprofit Hope Faith, located at 705 Virginia Ave.
Lucas said a new ordinance, introduced by him in partnership with three other Kansas City Council members Thursday, would create a standalone housing department. The new department would allocate staff dedicated to managing and delegating affordable housing, homelessness and tenants’ rights and advocacy.
“For too long, we’ve given John Wood and his staff so many responsibilities,” Lucas said. “We said figure this out, figure that out, but what we haven’t done is said, ‘Where are the resources?’”
The Office of the Tenant Advocate is contingent upon the approval of the city budget, which is set to be voted upon later tonight, March 25, by the City Council. Within the proposed budget there is funding to fully fund the new department, Lucas said.
In addition to the potential new department, City Manager Brian Platt announced the new initiative to transform over 100 Land Bank properties into homes for unhoused or low income Kansas Citians.
Under this initiative, properties would be sold for $1 provided that the new property owners entirely rehabilitate the property and provide the fixed properties to individuals who make $18,000 annual income or less, or families who make 30% or less of the federal guide to annual median income.
“Essentially what we’re doing is looking for our developers of nonprofit service providers, faith based organizations and/or any individuals who have a place in their heart for housing the unhoused,” said John Wood, Director of the Department of Neighborhoods and Housing Services.
The next step of the Land Bank process is to get community input from nonprofit organizations, as well as neighborhood associations and neighborhood leaders, to ensure that they have some input into what these houses should look like in terms of providing services for the unhoused, said Wood.
An open house is being held virtually by the Kansas City Neighborhood Housing Services Association on Thursday, April 1 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., with the intent of getting community input on this new dollar house program.
The City is also looking to provide hundreds of additional new affordable housing units to the city, Platt said. Currently, the goal is to add more units through the Barney Allis Plaza project renovation. This renovation to the parking facility will create opportunity for ground floor retail and a public plaza in addition to the affordable housing units. The new plaza is currently just beginning the design process.
“We think this is going to become an example of a case study for those across the country that can turn city property into affordable housing units for those needs the most,” Platt said.