Kansas City Council on Thursday approved a measure that sets priorities for spending millions of dollars to support more affordable housing in the city.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the housing trust fund measure, despite arguments from some critics that it will not help enough tenants facing eviction and homelessness due to soaring rents.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who sponsored the ordinance, thanked everyone who worked to make the trust fund a useful tool.

“I thank everyone who will continue to work to ensure that we develop more affordable housing in our community,” said Lucas.

The board approved a trust fund almost three years ago, but there was no money until recently, when federal COVID-19 economic relief dollars became available.

The ordinance approved Thursday calls on the Housing and Community Department to initiate the initial application process for project selection within 120 days. The city council can accept, reject or adjust the recommendations.

Housing must remain affordable for at least 30 years and preferably longer. This has been increased from an earlier project requiring 20 years. Lucas said 30 years should help ensure affordable housing doesn’t fall prematurely at market rates, as has happened with some investments in the low-income housing tax credit.

The measure calls for devoting at least 20% to the creation of affordable rental housing; 20% for the preservation of affordable rents; 10% on supportive housing for the homeless; and 10% for maintaining ownership. It is not 100%, so it allows to have more in each category.

“We think it’s important to put some basic parameters in place now to ensure that city staff have a certain direction from the council,” AJ Herrmann, director of policy in the mayor’s office, told a council committee on October 20.

During this Neighborhood, Planning and Development Committee discussion, Herrmann acknowledged that updates and changes to this framework will be required as new needs and funding sources emerge in the years to come.

Herrmann explained that the proposal does not establish a board of directors because there is no community consensus yet on what the power of the board should be or who should serve.

But members of the tenant advocacy group KC testified at the committee hearing and said they viewed the proposed framework as a “dark fund” for developers. They said that was not doing enough for very low income households to take advantage of indifferent landlords. They also said the city’s definition of “affordable,” with monthly rents over $ 1,000, is still far too expensive for many families.

“We need a housing trust fund with a board of directors for people like me who would listen to me,” said Javon Swopes, single mother of four and head of KC Tenants. “My landlord hurts our families. We need a people’s housing trust fund that prioritizes our homes, is affordable for us, and is accountable to us.

Geoff Jolley, Executive Director of Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) of Kansas City, which supports affordable housing, said the ordinance is a good start, but more measures are needed.

He said 60,000 Kansas City households, including 40,000 renters and 20,000 landlords, were struggling to pay for their housing. He supported a community board of directors comprised of people facing unstable housing.

City Councilor Andrea Bough, a lawyer specializing in real estate, land use and development, said KC tenants had scored good points.

“For a long time,” Bough said, “we’ve done it a certain way and listened to a lot of bands and I appreciate the voices you have here now and we need to do more listening. opportunity to do something real.

It included an ordinance requiring the city manager to establish a housing trust fund advisory board, with members appointed by the mayor, and report to the board within 120 days.

As it tries to address long-term housing affordability, city council is also trying to tackle chronic homelessness as a frosty winter looms.

Bartle Hall is not available as an emergency warming center this winter. Instead, the city’s plan calls for better collaboration with existing service providers and a more regional response to try to serve hundreds of people every night.

City council on Thursday backed the partnership with Amethyst Place, south of 27e and Troost, with $ 300,000 in pre-development funds for 34 new units for single mothers and their children. He continues to explore the conversion of vacant hotel spaces into sheltered apartments. But plans for a few small “pallet” houses in the city center are pending.


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