Board committee adopts changes to KC housing trust fund



KC Tenants chief testified on Mayor Quinton Lucas’ housing trust fund proposal on October 20, 2021.

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A Kansas City Council committee on Wednesday approved changes to a housing trust fund ordinance a week after KC tenants rallied outside the mayor’s office, calling for more contributions.

Mayor Quinton Lucas proposed an ordinance that, among other things, would make the Department of Housing and Community Development responsible for the housing trust fund and require all units using the funds to remain affordable for at least 20 years.

The changes introduced on Wednesday direct city manager Brian Platt to create an advisory board for the fund within the next 120 days and add social housing to the criteria for evaluating priority projects.

The mayor’s policy director AJ Herrmann told the committee meeting that the mayor’s office is open to alternative governance structures such as a board of directors.

“There does not appear to be a current consensus on what the power of this council should be or who should sit on this council,” he said.

The city established its Housing Trust Fund in December 2018 to help revitalize neighborhoods, develop housing and implement preservation projects. One sticking point has been who oversees the distribution of money from the housing trust fund. KC tenants have asked for a seat at the table to ensure the fund goes to those who need it most.

On Twitter, Lucas wrote that he appreciated the work of his policy director and committee to “pass an order to the full council ensuring that our housing trust fund aligns with HUD goals for housing. really affordable and creates more affordable units for KCMO ”.

Leaders of KC Tenants, a group led by poor tenants and the working class organizing for affordable and safe housing, testified against the mayor’s proposal, calling it a “slush fund for developers.”

In May, the city allocated the $ 12.5 million fund issued as part of the federal COVID relief program. These funds must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. A third of this $ 12.5 million has been allocated to developments.

The mayor’s proposal

Herrmann said at Wednesday’s meeting that progress in spending the funds had been slow because no specific plan was already in place. The mayor’s proposal, he said, provides for specific changes.

These include:

  • Places the administration of the housing trust fund under the direction of the Department of Housing and Community Development under the supervision of the council
  • Requests the ministry to conduct a semi-annual request for proposals process to obtain requests for the use of funds
  • Creates high-level eligibility criteria for all projects funded by the trust fund

“We think it’s important to put some basic parameters in place now to ensure that municipal staff have some direction from the council and can start allocating trust funds to create needed affordable housing,” Herrmann said. .

The eligibility criteria indicate that the city will prioritize applications that maximize:

  • Number of units created per dollar of housing trust fund invested;

  • Total number of affordability months, with longer periods of affordability guaranteed having a higher priority; and

  • Affordability threshold, with higher priority for low income projects.

It also sets a limit on how much of a percentage the city will contribute to a particular project.

Herrmann said a permanent source of funding is still needed. Long-term funding, he said, will come from the city’s budgeting process.

The city must also heed state laws requiring voters to approve new sources of revenue such as taxes, Herrmann said.

Councilor Brandon Ellington, of District 3 in general, criticized the lack of long-term funding and his not having already gone through the budgeting process, saying “I can’t take this seriously.”

Public testimony

KC Tenants leaders called on Lucas to commit to establishing a board of directors of poor and working class tenants, creating social housing, funding police and taxing gentrifiers to provide continued funding to a trust fund for housing, as opposed to one-off investments from developers.

This summer, the organization unveiled its People’s Housing Trust Fund. Funding for this would be withdrawn from sources such as the police department and developers. And the proposed programs would protect tenants’ rights, keep them housed, and create electricity.

About 30 tenants gathered in the boardroom on Wednesday, taking photos after each member shared their story or shared a story on behalf of someone who couldn’t attend.

One woman said that by listening to the committee, she realized they were thinking of the developers, not the residents of Kansas City.

“I still have to live here. And I still deserve the right to affordable housing, not just for 20 years. If we set a minimum of 20 years, we say 20 years works for us, ”she said. “I ask you once again to vote no on this ordinance so that we can again talk about what this looks like for the people of Kansas City and not for the developers who are coming in.”

Jenay Manley, along with KC Tenants, said after the committee that the group “spoke the truth to power and were very clear on the things we wanted.”

“And I think without those voices in the room, without us telling our stories, it wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

And although changes were made to the proposal on Wednesday, Manley said that was not enough.

“We need to create long-term sustainable change and we need to prioritize permanent affordable housing outside the private market, but it actually creates a broader conversation that is important,” Manley said.

Christopher McKinney, director of community impact for the Urban Neighborhood Initiative, spoke in favor of the proposal, calling it “vital” to ensuring funds are used as intended. He asked the committee to add a zoning council to represent different parts of the affordable housing ecosystem as well as private and non-government funding sources.

Councilor Andrea Bough said council needs to listen more.

“This is our opportunity to do something real,” Bough said. “We’re not doing enough, either in this ordinance or in any of the other policies.”

Bough, who represents District 6 as a whole, has pushed to raise the bar of the council.

“We’re talking about Maseratis for downtown baseball,” Bough said later. “We need a Maserati for affordable housing.

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Cortlynn Stark covers City Hall with a focus on fairness for The Kansas City Star. She joined The Star in January 2020 as a breaking reporter. Cortlynn studied journalism and Spanish at Missouri State University.

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