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Organizers explain the growth of tenant unions in KCMO

Tenant unions in KC continue to form
Posted at 11:00 PM, Sep 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 16:45:58-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — KC's Quality Hill Towers is the latest apartment building with a tenant union as activist groups work to improve living conditions across the city.

Tenants at Quality Hill Towers have stacked up a list of complaints they believe a tenants organization will help address.

The list includes things like flooding, roaches, bed bugs and mouse infestations.

Hell Woods helped organize the tenant union at Quality Hill Towers.

They believed if they simply moved out and did nothing, someone else would live through the same things they did.

"People are genuinely living in such neglected squalor in these buildings," Woods said.

The city partners with United Way to provide a free 211 service that helps connect tenants in the city to legal advisers.

It's helped about 3,000 tenants this year in KCMO avoid wrongful evictions or penalties.

Organized tenant unions are growing as efforts increase to improve living conditions.
Woods believes it's a snowball effect of tenants seeing the success of other unions.

"Because folks are starting to realize that they can do something about their conditions," they said.

Woods chose to organize first and has now submitted about 50 reports to Healthy Housing.

Healthy Housing is part of the city's system of accountability, with the legal power to hold landlords accountable.

"We really just got to hold them accountable otherwise nothing is going to change," Woods said.

KC Tenants, an advocacy group that works to protect tenants, believes the increased number of unions is due to many tenants feeling like it's their only or best option.

Gabe Coppage with KC Tenants says many communities feel they've fallen through the gaps in a social safety net that was supposed to protect them.

"I feel like Kansas City really is at such a crossroads," Coppage said. "Like all this new development, this new tourism and just the rents continuing to skyrocket. It is really needed for us to have community to like have each others backs."

KSHB 41 reached out to Sentinel Real Estate, the owner of the Quality Hill Towers buildings.

Vice President Steve Nieglos acknowledged the recent flooding caused by leaks, adding they will continue to work on addressing tenant's issues.

"We have been working in good faith with residents at Quality Hill Towers throughout the summer to address issues relating to plumbing and pest control." Nieglos said in an email.. "On September 2, we became aware of a leak in a hot water supply line affecting approximately 20 units. Our staff was immediately on site, but given the holiday weekend there was a delay in securing a vendor to complete repairs. All impacted residents were offered hotel stays during the disruption. As of today, the leak has been repaired and the clean-up process is underway."

In response to the statement, several tenants said communication was lacking.

They add that while there were rumors about possible hotel offers, many were never actually offered one.