The City Council has approved creation of a standalone housing department with dedicated resources and staffing to support tenant advocacy, homelessness prevention and support, affordable housing preservation and creation, and overall community development. This new Housing and Community Development Department was created through Ordinance #210235, approved May 6, 2021, by a unanimous vote after several weeks of council debate and listening to public feedback.
One of the key components of this new housing department is the implementation and funding of the Office of the Tenant Advocate, created to assist renters with a variety of available services ensuring safe and affordable accommodations for all Kansas City residents.
“All Kansas Citians deserve to have stable and affordable housing —regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. With nearly 2,000 children and adults experiencing homelessness in and around Kansas City, Kansas City government understands that systemic housing issues will require more than just short-term solutions,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “I am proud that the City Council decisively voted today to establish a new Kansas City Housing Department, one of my key campaign promises, whose focus will be advocating for Kansas Citians who are experiencing homelessness and prioritizing the creation of affordable family housing. This Housing Department is just one step of many in our work to continue providing housing services to continue building a more equitable community.”
Council sponsors of the ordinance also include Councilmembers Andrea Bough, Eric Bunch, Brandon Ellington and Ryana Parks-Shaw.
“Establishing a new Housing Department is important to ensure that this Council makes clear that providing safe and affordable housing to our citizens is not only a priority but is crucial to the implementation of policies with meaningful impact,” said 6th District at-large Councilmember Bough. “We are also strengthening our commitment to our neighborhoods and working with our neighborhood organizations as we take bold steps in moving our city forward.”
The new department will formally begin on June 1.
“With council approval of this new department, we will now for the first time have staff and resource dedicated to eliminating homelessness, to advocate for our tenants, and to better support our lowest income families and individuals,” said City Manager Brian Platt.
The City Council has also recently approved new legal requirements for developers to create more affordable housing when they receive incentives for housing projects and has created the Houseless Task Force. The task force, comprised of councilmembers and advocates for the unhoused, will develop ways the city can best partner with the community to resolve homelessness issues.
The City of Kansas City has also implemented several programs this year to help our residents with housing and homelessness issues:
- The Bartle Hall Warming Center provided a safe, warm place to stay for an average of 307 people nightly during the worst two months of the winter.
- Last week the City announced a plan to construct tiny homes to provide emergency transitional housing for the unhoused community.
- The City is planning to build hundreds of affordable housing units on Barney Allis Plaza as a part of the rehabilitation of the parking garage.
- The City just announced the application process to turn 111 vacant and abandoned homes into affordable housing for anyone at or below 30% AMI and/or homeless individuals and families.
- The City has invested $8.5 million in the past fiscal year to serve those experiencing homelessness, using COVID relief funding (and our normally budgeted funds) to help those thrown into poverty due to the pandemic and loss of jobs. This funding supports community organizations that provide housing, emergency shelter, outreach, counseling, rent and utility assistance and other services to KCMO residents.
- To prevent homelessness, an additional $14.8 million in federal relief is now available to tenants through several community organizations. Go to KCMO.gov/renthelp for more info, an online application and the list of agencies to call for immediate help.
For more information, media can contact Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department Communications/Community Liaison John Baccala at (816) 513-3202.