KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County sweetened the pot with an extra $500,000 as part of a relocation plan to make room for a new jail.
The county legislature approved a $1.7-million relocation plan, which includes $10,000 per family living in the Heart Village Mobile Home Park.
Those residents will be displaced by the plan for a new Jackson County Detention Center.
The county’s original formal proposal allocated $1.2 million to help relocate Heart Village’s 106 residents, who are expected to be relocated before Feb. 28, 2022.
But after discussion, including testimony from some residents and the advocacy group KC Tenants, Jackson County agreed to pay all rent for Heart Village residents from now until their relocation, among other changes.
Ronisha Rogers, a resident of Heart Village Mobile Home Park, said the outcome at Monday's meeting was "great."
"I think we got a lot of things brought out on the table that was not on the table before," Rogers said.
Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. said in a statement from the county that the relocation plan was a step forward in county efforts to help residents find new housing.
“Hearing directly from the residents again about their needs and concerns is critical to ensuring there is no misinformation as we go through this process," White said. "The county is committed to being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and treating everyone fairly and respectfully, as evidenced by the decisive action taken today by the County Legislature.”
The Community Services League, or CSL, will “provide specialized housing and relocation assistance to families through the use of social workers, a relocation consultant and housing assistance funds” as part of the agreement.
They will help the families navigate concerns about schooling and connect residents with other CSL programs, including career training, in addition to assisting them with making mak use of other public and private assistance.
However, Tara Raghuveer, KC Tenants director, said she hopes CSL will find the families being displaced need more help than some might think.
"CSL actually has to come back to the county legislature in 30 days and present on their findings after these one-on-one meetings with each household," Raghuveer said, "and that will be an opportunity from that number to go up from $1.7 million to whatever it actually needs to be to fully compensate every resident."
The county also will pay all relocation costs, including moving mobile homes as needed, at a projected cost of more than $1 million, in addition to the $10,000 payments.
However, while residents of Heart Village Mobile Home Park said they are happy about the increase, they would like for the $10,000 to be unrestricted.
"We want that to be unrestricted money, we want it to be $10,000 cash because the way they wanted to put it was it had to go towards rental assistance," said Urban Scaufer, a resident of Heart Village Mobile Home Park.
Residents, according to Raghuveer, want to know how they can "best use" the funds.
"What they’ve been saying all along is that they don't want rental assistance. They don't want housing assistance," she said. "They just want $10,000 cash at the minimum so that they can figure out paying for a ramp, you know paying back medical bills that have gone unpaid as they try to figure out their housing situation."
The county also is required to track the displaced families’ outcomes and provide “ongoing support” for at least one year.
Jackson County commissioned JCDC Partners to oversee the process of picking a new site for a proposed county jail in December 2019.
JCDC Partners delivered its site selection criteria in April 2021, leading the Jackson County Legislature to approve spending more than $7 million in July to acquire new land for the jail at 7000 East U.S. 40 Highway.
The proposed site is north of U.S. 40 nestled between the Blue River to the west and Manchester Trafficway to the east.
Some residents were dismayed by the sale, especially when the initial offer to residents displaced included moving expenses and a $5,000 payment, minus any outstanding rent and utility payments.
KC Tenants helped roughly half of the residents sign on to a list of demands from the county in late July, which included the increased payments and additional assistance approved Monday.
The county has budgeted $80,000 for CSL to hire two family stability specialists on a 12-month contract, plus 20% in employee-related expenses.
Relocation consultant Don Frank will receive nearly $54,000, while CSL also receives $20,000 for project-administration costs.