KC officials define what is considered affordable housing, outline 5-year plan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Officials from several KCMO departments presented a draft Wednesday of their much-anticipated five-year housing policy for the city.

The ambitious document includes more than 200 action items in its nearly 70 pages. City staff, experts from the business and non-profit sectors and real estate and homebuilding trade associations participated in the creation of the policy, which was requested in November 2017 by City Council.

"The bad word in all of this is status quo. Let's not be status quo," Neighborhoods and Housing Services Director John Wood told the council's housing committee on Wednesday.

One issue the policy tackles is the definition of affordable housing for Kansas City. Earlier this year council passed an ordinance defining affordable housing only for projects receiving tax incentives from the city. The new housing policy would set the citywide definition as no more than 30 percent of a household’s annual gross income. 

For example, a household bringing in $20,000 should spend no more than $500 a month on housing. According to U.S. Census data presented in the policy report, 91 percent of renters making less than $20,000 have been outspending that recommendation. 

"I think once you make a certain amount, you can get housing. I think if you're under that, it's very difficult and there's really no help available right now," Midtown renter Para Schaefer said. 

The city hopes to change that.

The proposed policy further brackets income levels to reflect what percentage of the city’s annual median income that household is bringing in. That measure would allow housing projects to target specific populations, like families making 60 percent of AMI ($30,741). 

While there are hundreds of action items in the policy, the authors highlight these five "bold ideas":

  1. Create/preserve 5,000 additional single-family and multifamily housing units by December 2023.
  2. Create a $75 million housing development (trust) fund to create and preserve units.
  3. Support non-profit and private developers with resources, less burdensome regulations and appropriate incentives.
  4. Recognize that housing is essential for stronger and vibrant neighborhoods and the housing policy must emphasize holistic revitalization, promote mixed-income development, and help existing homeowners and first buyers live and remain in their homes.
  5. Create a Tenant/Landlord University to model best practices to improve tenant/landlord relationship.

The five-year housing policy isn't set in stone. The housing committee will hold public meetings to gather feedback. Council would also need to adopt the policy and pass corresponding legislation to enact it. 

According to Councilman Quinton Lucas, who chairs the housing committee, such legislation would include enhanced requirements for affordable housing in developments. The study group recommended a requirement that 15 percent of all units in taxpayer-incentivized housing be reserved for individuals or families making less than $38,0000. 

To create the $75 million trust fund, the group recommended raising an initial $15 million by increasing the city's business use tax on out-of-state purchases. 

The housing policy will be discussed again Thursday during the council's business session. 

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