Kansas City’s Housing Trust Fund board is recommending 14 affordable housing projects to the City Council at a cost of almost $8 million.
The proposals were set to be introduced to the council during Thursday’s meeting.
“It’s only the beginning,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “I think, though, that it’s a robust beginning. … I think you have fair recommendations. As always, not everyone will be happy. But I think at the very least, they can be satisfied that we went through a fair, equitable process to try to make sure we’re building more affordable housing units in our city.”
The plan would create 456 more units of affordable housing. Most of the funding for each project is closer to the low end of $114,000.
The highest expenditure, $1.7 million, goes to the Palestine Economic Development Corp. to rehabilitate its 25-year-old buildings and provide 118 units of affordable housing for seniors.
The Whole Person Inc. was awarded $1 million to develop 30 new affordable rental units for people with disabilities, as well as a community space and a universal design park with community programming.
The Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council would get $725,000 for its Heroes Home Gate project to develop a 24-bed facility to help homeless veterans.
Lucas was serving on the council when the Housing Trust Fund was created in 2018 to help revitalize neighborhoods, develop housing and implement preservation projects. In 2019, the council approved a Five Year Housing Policy, with the goal of eventually allocating $75 million to the fund and building 5,000 affordable units.
The fund sat empty until May 2021, when city leaders set aside $12.5 million of federal COVID relief funds. City officials estimate the next round of funding will allocate the remaining $12.8 million in COVID money. And another $10.5 million will go to the fund over several years.
“It will show that we can do this if we have some money set aside in the Housing Trust Fund and it will encourage us to find a continuing funding source,” said Councilwoman Andrea Bough, District 6 at-large and one of the ordinance’s sponsors. “I’m really just looking forward to it actually happening.”
Bough said she hopes the recommendations will inspire others to come up with ways to build affordable housing. That continuous funding source could come from a variety of sources, Bough said, but the city needs to find long-term solutions.
Members of the board, appointed in March, met since May to go over 26 applications, said Anne Jordan, policy director for the mayor’s office. Those applications asked for $24.3 million. That was ultimately whittled down to $7.95 million.
Melissa Ferrer-Civil, who represented the citywide tenants union KC Tenants on the board, said it was heartening to see other board members step up. In the first meeting, she said, one board member stated that they shouldn’t get too personal.
“I said ‘excuse me, but this is personal,’” Ferrer-Civil said. “If you are not taking into account the real actual lives that will be affected by the decisions we make in this room, then that leaves much larger suffering for later. I’d much rather take it personal now and have that be a part of our decision making.”
However, she said, the Housing Trust Fund is not the ideal fund. KC Tenants last year proposed a People’s Housing Trust Fund, prioritizing tenant voices. Funding would be divested from sources including the police department and developers. And the proposed programs would protect tenants’ rights and keep them housed.
Ferrer-Civil said she hopes the board might inspire someone with a “revolutionary way to deal with the housing problem.”
“My biggest hope, I think, is that we start changing the narrative of what affordability looks like in Kansas City,” Ferrer-Civil said. “We start changing the narrative of what housing looks like in Kansas City. And we start changing the narrative of what voices are heard when these decisions are made.”
The board considered factors such as affordability, overall impact on Kansas City’s housing stock and project readiness.
Kavya Shankar, a board member and the co-founder and COO of Trust Neighborhoods, said she was inspired by the board’s collaboration, eventually reaching unanimous consent for the 14 recommendations. It was the first board she’d served on where everyone would bring booklets of notes with them, she said.
And the diversity of projects exemplifies the “creativity, flexibility and large-scale impact,” the fund is having, Shankar said.
Developers must start projects within 12 months of the contract signing, or they’ll have to return the money to the city. Contractors will also have to give monthly reports on the projects’ status.
The groundwork has been laid for the next round of funding. Applicants who didn’t make the cut this time can apply in the future.
Here’s how much each proposed project could receive, pending City Council approval:
- Palestine Economic Development Corporation — Palestine Gardens North Rehabilitation, $1.7 million
- Parade Park Homes — Parade Park, $350,000
- Missouri Housing Partners LLC — Greenwood Senior Apartments, $500,000
- Missouri Housing Partners LLC — Blue Hills Townhomes, $600,000
- Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council — Garfield East Senior Cottages, $370,360
- The Lykins Neighborhood Trust, $383,000
- Amethyst Place — Amethyst Place Expansion at 2770 Tracy, $500,000
- Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council — Heroes Home Gate Campus, $725,000
- The Whole Person, Inc. — The Prospect at 35th, $1 million
- KC MASS Services LLC — Synergy Services Domestic Violence Housing, $750,000
- Community LINC — Community LINC Housing Proof of Concept, $161,000
- Westside Housing Organization — Health and Environmental Resiliency, $350,000
- Habitat for Humanity Kansas City — Revitalization Homeownership Project, $114,000
- Marlborough Community Land Trust — Marlborough Townhomes, $450,000
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