KC Tenants held a rally to announce the launch of KC Tenants Power, a sister organization to the nonprofit tenant union. At the Oct. 8 rally in Ilus Davis Park, attended by nearly 200 people, members of the organization spoke to the crowd about the role of KC Tenants and the new organization.
KC Tenants Power will operate as an extension of the tenant union and will focus on education of tenant rights and on building political power.
Currently, KC Tenants is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, which prohibits the organization from supporting or endorsing public officials or candidates. KC Tenants Power has formed as a 501(c)4 nonprofit to allow the sister organization to engage in political activity.
“It’s a very common practice that a 501(c)3 will form a sister organization that is a different type of legal entity that allows them more latitude to get involved with politics,” said Tara Raghuveer, a leader with the KC Tenants, during a recent interview.
The new KC Tenants Power is already organizing to support a $50 million bond measure to help fund more affordable housing. The 501(c)4 group will be canvassing, with plans to knock on the doors of 25,000 Kansas City residents to raise awareness of the vote.
“When we win, let’s be clear, that was the people who secured those funds and it should be the people who decide how they’re spent,” said Denise Brown, a member of KC Tenants who spoke at the rally about the organization’s planned canvassing efforts.
KC Tenants Power will hold listening sessions around the city on issues impacting housing, and will endorse candidates in next spring’s municipal elecitions.
High on their goal will be getting more candidates in elected positions who support their agenda.
Jenay Manley, a member of KC Tenants, said the organization will focus on issues that have gone unaddressed by policymakers in Kansas City.
“Tenants in Kansas City have been organizing for the last three years, and it’s been clear that there’s a ceiling on what we can build if people in office don’t have a vision for Kansas City that includes us,” Manley said. “So the goal with KC Tenants Power is to build governing power.”
In August, under the leadership of Mayor Quinton Lucas, the city council voted to ease affordable housing in the city which drew stark criticism from members of the tenant union.
KC Tenants was instrumental in drafting and advocating for a Tenants Bill of Rights in 2019, the first in the history of the city, and the Tenant’s Right to Counsel that provides legal counsel to anyone facing eviction.
The Tenant’s Right to Counsel got off the ground in June and has seen positive results, with initial reports between June 1 and Sept. 1 showing 75% of the 372 cases resulted in tenants successfully resolving their eviction cases.