Kansas City councilman to introduce new ordinance on affordable housing next week

Posted at 10:01 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 23:18:11-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — How does Kansas City define affordable housing? Councilman Quinton Lucas says, it doesn't.

"When I went through the city codes and ordinances, we don't actually have a clear legal definition of what affordable housing is," he said. Lucas argues that's how The Cordish Companies were able to say an affordable rate is $1,870 a month.

Nick Benjamin, a Cordish development director, told the city council that the median household income in the county and city is just under $75,000 a year. If you take 30 percent of that, the amount deemed acceptable for housing, the total is $1,875 per month.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports a median household income of $48,000 in Jackson County back in 2016. Using the same 30 percent, the monthly rent deemed acceptable is $1,200 a month, two-thirds of what Cordish is calling affordable.

Lucas wants to cut the confusion and take charge of how that number is set.

"That's why I think it's important that we ensure that it's not $1,500 a month for a studio or one-bedroom apartment. Instead, it's something closer to $600 or $700 a month, which is still frankly high for some people but much closer to something that more people in Kansas City can afford," he said.

Mayor Sly James says there are 6,000 affordable housing units downtown alone, and the city has invested millions of dollars in affordable housing in other parts of the city. He believes not honoring the contract with Cordish would be negligent.

Lucas said, "This is not us saying that every developer needs to go out and put in a percentage of affordable housing. What we're saying is if the city is going to invest tens of millions of dollars into your project, then you've got to do something in exchange."

Lucas plans to introduce the ordinance next week.