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Housing providers pushing to be part of houseless, affordability solutions in Kansas City

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Posted at 5:02 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 11:07:23-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are thousands of houseless people across the Kansas City area. Many of them are in the pipeline to be placed into housing through a voucher program, but they're still waiting.

"We see people every day that have had vouchers for months," Chris Stout, former director of programs for Hope Faith Ministries said.

The challenges of finding housing don't just impact the houseless.

Families across the country are struggling to find affordable housing. Countless others who do have a place to call home, are having a hard time paying the rent.

Surgo Ventures tracks the amount of overdue rent across the country.

According to their data, 15% of renters in Jackson County, Missouri, are in default, resulting in more than $55 million due. That's an average of more than $3,000 per household.

KSHB 41 News spoke with Brent Never, an associate professor of public affairs at UMKC, who weighed in on the issue.

"Right now, it's a tremendous problem. We have this perfect storm," Never said. "There's a lot of money out there, $25 billion in rental assistance. We've only moved out about $3 billion of that, so really it's about these channels. It's about pushing the money out effectively. It's not a money argument right now. It's about how we push it out to the families who need it."

The Kansas City Regional Housing Alliance put a few policy ideas together, like using some of that rental assistance money to help get more people housed.

"So that you'd have the ability to rent to those people who you wouldn't ordinarily consider by way of their credentials," Sam Alpert, an expert in housing and development said.

Ryana Parks-Shaw, who represents KCMO's fifth district, chairs the houseless task force and is working on solutions around affordability like the housing trust fund.

"From the research that I've done, there has been some success in other municipalities with this program," Parks-Shaw said when asked about the alliance policy. "Of course, we need to have the funding to do that."

KSHB 41 News shared a copy of the policy with Never, for an objective view on how viable it could be.

"From my read of the proposals, they could get that money right off, the owners," Never said. "They could satisfy any past debts and then immediately end the lease. No protection. I didn't see anything in there about that."

Longtime realtor and property provider, Jennifer Justus, recently started selling her property in Kansas City, blaming a tougher climate to do business in for her decision.

"We have to have that compromise and we have to have the housing providers at the table talking about the solutions," Justus said when asked about discussion around policy and the housing trust fund.

Kansas City leaders approved $12.5 million for the housing trust fund, with another $12.5 million set to come in the near future. There's a great divide on how those funds should be spent.

"It's a matter of effectively and efficiently using existing housing stock as opposed to finding ways to find a magic bullet that somehow you're going to build thousands of new units and you're going to have affordable housing," Alpert said. "The economics of it don't work today."

"We can have private/public partnerships for the housing trust fund," Justus said. "We can have a better working relationship with the city. There are lots of options out there that aren't being pursued."

KCMO City Manager Brian Platt is charged with creating an advisory board for the housing trust fund by Feb. 2022