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Proposal To Use Scooter Taxes For Affordable Housing In Kansas City Draws Council Support

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City Council is considering using new revenue from dockless scooters for affordable housing.

Can money from dockless scooters help solve Kanssa City's affordable housing problem?

Some City Council members seem to think the newfound tax money from Lime and Bird is a start.

“While $300,000 annually is not going to solve all of the issues we have in terms of housing, I think it is an important first step,” said Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who helped pack a hearing room Wednesday morning with affordable housing advocates.

The two scooter companies pay the city a dollar a day for each scooter on the street. There are 1,000 of them scattered about town, so the city conservativly estimates they'll generate at least $300,000 in new revenue.

It was Shields' idea to try to funnel that money into housing.

“This council ought to have an opportunity and the public ought to have an opportunity to weigh in on where these dollars will be spent,” she said at the Finance and Governance Committee meeting.

There are, however, two problems. First, the city isn't sure it can spend the scooter money on housing. And more to the point, $300,000 won't go very far.

“The saying is, 'Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,' but at the same time we need a whole herd to actually fund this housing policy,” Housing Services Director John Wood said. 

In September, the city unveileda study on affordable housingand plans for a $75 million trust fund that would provide support for developers, homeowners and small rehabbers.

Wood said $300,000 could fund about 30 minor home repair projects a year, pay for 20 mid-level projects like roof or furnace repair, or fund the painting of 50 homes a year.

While that's a long way from the $75 million goal, Marquita Taylor, president of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Association, said it's a start.

“Any additional funding that the city has that can be used in that capacity, we certainly want to see that happen,” Taylor said. 

Gigi Owens, who lives along the Prospect Avenue corridor, told the committee the city shouldn't be blinded by new, fancy apartment buildings.

“We don’t want those to overtake people who want to be homeowners, that have a stake in their community and want to stay in the community,” she said.

The committee took no action but sent the ordinance to the Housing Committee. Most members of the committee agreed, however, that some money for housing is better than none.

“Everyone in this room and everyone on this committee understands that we need to fund affordable housing," committee chair Scott Wagner said. "No one is going to say don’t do that.”

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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