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In-Depth: Thousands of families on years-long waiting lists for affordable housing in Kansas City

Housing authority properties
Posted at 6:19 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 20:32:47-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge visited Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday to tout President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, which has a big focus on affordable housing.

The legislation promises to build, preserve and renovate two million affordable housing units in the U.S.

A greater supply of those units is desperately needed in KCMO, according to housing experts and tenants.

One of those tenants is Kadejah Taylor, a mother of two who escaped domestic violence and now lives in public housing operated by the Housing Authority of Kansas City (HAKC).

"I cherish it. I'm so thankful I can put a roof over my kids' heads because there was a long, long, long time when I was not able to do that at all," Taylor said.

The family lived in a shelter, then in their car.

For Taylor, public housing was worth the wait. It was a long one.

Kadejah Taylor
Taylor waited three years for housing assistance.

"I actually applied for housing authority, public housing in 2016, and I didn't get any assistance until 2019," she said.

According to the HAKC, there are 11,000 families on the waiting list for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program and 6,000 families on the list for public housing.

There is some overlap between the two lists, so the HAKC estimates between 13,000 and 14,000 families are in need of housing assistance.

"The need for affordable housing is really multifaceted. It is supply and it is the funding to help, because it's a business for the landlords," HAKC Executive Director Edwin Lowndes said.

The HAKC owns and operates 1,750 public housing units and the agency has enough funding to serve 7,500 families in the voucher program.

That means it currently serves more than 9,000 families.

Lowndes is hopeful more funding will be devoted to housing, especially since the issue is taking center stage in both local and national political agendas.

"The ultimate objective is a family needs housing to become stable. They're not going to be able to hold a job if they don't have housing. They're not going to be healthy if they don't have housing," Lowndes said, "But if we get them housed, then they become employed, and they're healthy and have the education, both for the adults and the children, they can move up and then out."

Although thankful for the chance to live in public housing, Taylor is still on the waiting list for the voucher program.

She last checked her place in line in January.

"My number is 5,000 something," she said.

She thinks of all the other families who are waiting for the numbers to be called.

"It's sad. I picture how me and my kids was," Taylor said.