KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City opened the Emergency Rental Assistance Center earlier this month to help residents walk through the rental and utility assistance application process.
So far 81% of the $12 million given to the program by the federal government has been used and about 136 people have been helped.
The center hosted its first Saturday session Sept. 25. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who helped secure a significant amount of funding, attended the session during his short visit back home from Washington.
According to Cleaver, there will never be enough money to fix the housing crisis completely — lack of access to adequate housing has historical roots.
“We’ve done things to further hurt poor people as it relates to housing,” Cleaver said. “Like building I-70 right through a poor neighborhood.”
He says not enough emphasis was placed on affordable housing for all, and it took a global pandemic to expose the urgency of the situation.
Cleaver says the likelihood of another rental assistance building being passed is highly unlikely, especially getting it legislatively approved.
Now the courts are involved because the only way to get another rental program passed is to place it into federal law.
“We want to do something more than just provide assistance for a short period of time. We want affordable housing which people can move into,” Cleaver said.
Nigel Johnson, who has been a landlord in Kansas City for over 20 years, says he was once out of a job and could not pay the bills. He spent three years in physical therapy following a head-on collision.
“So I also know what it’s like to be in a situation where you have the best of intentions, you thought you had it all figured out, but life happens sometimes, and then we have to dig ourselves out the hole that we find ourselves in,” Johnson said.
He spends time learning more about the available assistance programs in the area to inform other people in need on where to look for help.
One of the biggest barriers to receiving financial assistance is the lack of information among the public, according to Johnson.
Cleaver says he believes the best chance at combating the housing issue is to approve President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda.
Billions of dollars have been set aside through the plan for public housing, which has not been built in Kansas City for over 25-30 years.
The center is open by appointment only. Call (816) 513-4501 to schedule an appointment.
The center is open regularly on Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an hour break from noon to 1 p.m.
The center also keeps hours on Thursday afternoons from 1 to 6 p.m. at 4400 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in the city’s housing and community development department offices.
- Identification (driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.)
- Proof of residency
- Proof of income (pay stub, W-2 forms, 2020 tax return)
- Documentation of need