Kansas City struggles to keep downtown housing affordable

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of affordable housing units available in downtown Kansas City is expected to dramatically decrease over the next 5 years.

The reason? The expiration of tax credits used to develop affordable housing.

Many of the buildings in downtown Kansas City were developed before 2008, meaning their credits will expire in the next several years.

As those credits expire, developers could ask their tenants to pay more. 

Those who live in income-based units ranging from $500 to $700 a month could be asked to pay a little bit more or even have prices rise to market value, which is around $1100 a month. 

"There is a 15-year period where they have to stay affordable after that they do expire," said Stuart Bullington, deputy director of Kansas City Neighborhood and Housing Services Department. 

After that, the renter's fate is in the hands of the developer. 

"That’s when developers can either raise rents if necessary or they keep the rents just a little bit higher," said Bullington. 

The city tweeted out that over the next 5 years expiring credits will cause the number of housing units downtown to decline 41 percent. 

"It’s something we’re very concerned with. Right now, we’re seeing pressure on affordable housing both from the federal government and the state government where they used to support us but now that support isn’t really coming from Washington and Jefferson City," said Councilman Quinton Lucas. 

Federal and state tax cuts means there are fewer incentives for developers to crest affordable housing. 

That's why city officials are trying to come up with solutions of their own. 

"We have a lot of buildings going up and they’re nice buildings, luxury apartments and that sort of thing and our goal is that we will give a tax break on construction materials if a developer agrees to have a percentage of affordable housing," said Lucas. 

Councilman Lucas said these next few years will be a turning point for downtown Kansas City's housing market. 

"The question for Kansas City right now is ‘do we still want a city that’s attracting affordable housing… people of different incomes downtown? Do we want the market to go more into luxury housing?'" said Lucas. 

Councilman Lucas said he and many city leaders believe it's best to continue having the diversity brought in by affordable housing in the downtown core. 

He also said the tax break on construction materials is the first of many ideas they are working on to bridge this gap.