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Tax relief comes at just the right time for residents living in KCMO's Westside

Alice Gomez
Posted at 9:25 PM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-12 23:13:08-04

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When a neighborhood is all someone has known their entire life, it can be hard to start over.

"I've lived here since 1948," Alice Gomez said. "This was my parent's home."

Gomez has everything here, including generations of family and memories with 31 grandchildren.

"All my family and friends are here, there's no way I'm ever leaving the Westside," she said. "They'll have to carry me out in a box."

Alice Gomez
Back in 1948, this was Alice Gomez' family house. To this day, they've kept it in the family.

The only moment she had any uncertainty was when she got her property tax bill in the mail.

"I've always paid anywhere from $500-800 for taxes for property here, then two years ago, we got a statement saying $2,400 please," she said.

The Jackson County Legislature has heard from homeowner after homeowner just like Gomez. They heard from some yesterday afternoon before denying a property tax freeze for homeowners over 62.

What makes the Westside of Kansas City different is the Westside Housing Organization got city council to approve an income-based tax relief program last year.

If you live on the city's Westside and make less than $75,000, your property taxes would be based on 2.65% of your household income.

Colleen Hernandez, outreach director for the tax relief program, runs the nonprofit's helpline to answer questions about the program.

"Predators [were] knocking on the door saying, 'I'll give you a dime on a dollar, you're gonna lose your house anyway,'" Hernandez said. "We had to first put the breaks on that and say help is on the way."

That help is making all the difference for a 1/3 of a neighborhood making less than $25,000/year.

Out of 528 homeowners in that part of town, 270 people have signed up. Gomez was a part of the initial group of volunteers making calls to spread the word.

"Saved a lot of people's homes and moving out and leaving because they're scared," Gomez said. "With this plan, they have hope."

For the other half of the Westside who hasn't applied, volunteers like Gomez and Hernandez are hoping they can get them on board in 2024.

"I said if I die and go to Heaven, they better have a phone up there so I can continue making calls," Gomez said.

Applications are closed for this year. More information can be found on the Westside Housing Organization's website.