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Tax Credits Will Help Transform This Kansas City School Into Affordable Senior Housing

Sunflower Development Group
A developer plans to turn the old Blenheim school at Gregory and Prospect into 52 apartments for low-income seniors.

An old Kansas City Public Schools building that’s been sitting empty since 2010 will be soon be repurposed into affordable housing for seniors.

Sunflower Development Group broke ground Monday on the Blenheim school site at Gregory and Prospect. Director of Development Mark Moberly says old schools can easily be converted into residential housing because they’re already subdivided into classrooms. Sunflower has already completed one KCPS renovation, the Faxon School Apartments.

“These old schools were put in neighborhood so the kids could walk to school,” Moberly says. “As these neighborhoods become less dense, those schools just weren’t needed. They set up really well for a senior apartment use.”

But Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens wants to eliminate the tax credits that help subsidize these reuse projects. Last month Greitens appointed two new members to the Missouri Housing Development Commission, who subsequently joined him in voting 8 to 2 not to extend any new state low-income housing credits in 2018.

One board member resigned right after, job done. Lt. Gov. Mike Parson and Treasurer Eric Schmitt voted against Greitens’ plan to zero out the state’s contributions.

Republican lawmakers are likely to target the tax credit program for reform. Many allege rich developers have received the credits for projects that did not justify the state’s investment.

Moberly, who spent three years trying to get low-income housing tax credits for Blenheim, says the renovation wouldn’t be happening without them.

Credit Kansas City Public Library
Kansas City Public Library
A tax assessment photo shows what Blenheim looked like in 1940. The school is still in relatively good condition except for some water damage.

“The only way that this Blenheim School works is through the use of the historic tax credits and the low-income housing tax credits,” Moberly says. “Really the downtown Kansas City renaissance started with affordable housing units.”

He points to Sunflower’s success at Faxon – the apartments had 100 percent occupancy within three months, and there’s been little turnover. The city, the school district and the neighborhood association all supported Sunflower’s petition for the tax credits.

An income-qualifying senior will be able to rent a one-bedroom apartment for about $500 when Blenheim opens next year.

The district, which at one time had 30 surplus properties to maintain, has transferred control of 17 former school sites through its repurposing initiative. Four others are under contract.

KCUR’s Brian Ellison contributed to this report.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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