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Housing & Development

Kansas City Land Bank will get a new leader amid oversight failures

The abandoned property at 2604 Spruce Ave. in Kansas City, Mo., is owned by the Land Bank and listed as a dangerous building by the city.
Chase Castor
/
Kansas City Beacon
The abandoned property at 2604 Spruce Ave. in Kansas City, Mo., is owned by the Land Bank and listed as a dangerous building by the city.

Attorney Julie Anderson, whose term expired in 2020, will be replaced by LaDonna Gooden. Housing advocates had argued Anderson’s role as an eviction attorney undermined her ability to lead an organization tasked with affordable housing solutions.

The Kansas City Land Bank board of directors will vote to approve a replacement for interim chair Julie Anderson this week.

A Kansas City Beacon investigation last month revealed that Anderson, a local attorney, represented a Land Bank buyer in court multiple times, creating potential conflicts of interest. Anderson did not disclose the professional relationship to the City Clerk’s office when filling out conflicts of interest disclosure forms.

A 2016 appointee by former Mayor Sly James, Anderson’s term technically expired in 2020 — commissioners serve four-year terms. She left the board on Monday, according to Commissioner Brandon Gumm. Anderson has declined multiple requests for interviews.

Discussions about removing Anderson first began in June. Mayor Quinton Lucas told The Beacon last week he was committed to appointing a replacement, but would not provide a timetable for when the change would occur. Housing advocacy group KC Tenants has argued Anderson’s role as an eviction attorney undermined her ability to lead an organization tasked with affordable housing solutions.

The Land Bank, which is tasked with creating more homes and community spaces by selling vacant, tax-delinquent properties to buyers, is supposed to hold buyers accountable to their rehabilitation promises. Through a series of record requests, court documents and interviews, The Beacon found the Land Bank allowed owners to sit on vacant properties without developing them for years.

The Land Bank also owns three properties currently listed as a dangerous building by the city, which are not listed in the Land Bank’s inventory.

Its inventory is now dominated by vacant lots, after years of selling abandoned properties. As those lots sit vacant, it’s costing the city more in contractual services: Mowing, tree trimming and clean up.

LaDonna Gooden, a FUSE Fellow for Economic Development working with the mayor’s office, is Lucas’ new appointee. Gooden has advised multiple companies and startups on development strategies, and recently served as a coach for the NeXt Stage KC business development program.

In a statement to The Beacon, Lucas said he’s proud to appoint Gooden to the Land Bank.

“She’s long been a leader in progressive reforms and this appointment will complement her and my office’s ongoing efforts to create more affordable housing opportunities for Kansas Citians in all neighborhoods,” he said. “I thank LaDonna for her service.”

Gooden was previously appointed by Lucas to the board of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

KC Tenants leader Jenay Manley said the group is excited that Anderson is no longer on the board and will be replaced by a new appointee. Manley also hopes the Land Bank follows through on the city’s plan from the spring to provide housing to unhoused people using Land Bank properties sold at a dollar.

“We expect the mayor’s nominee to make good on his commitments to the KC Homeless Union for Land Bank homes,” she said. “We have not seen that yet happen. And we expect to see that happen.”

This story was originally published on the Kansas City Beacon.

Updated: November 4, 2021 at 12:15 PM CDT
This story was updated to include comment from KC Tenants.
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