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‘A Good Start’: Jackson County Commits $1.7 Million For Mobile Home Residents Displaced By Jail

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
KC Tenants and residents of Heart Village Mobile Home Park celebrate after some of their demands are met by the Jackson County Legislature.

More than 100 residents of Heart Village mobile park will be displaced as part of the county's plan to build a new detention center.

Jackson County will spend up to $1.7 million to relocate residents of the mobile home park selected as the site for a new detention center.

More than 100 residents of Heart Village Mobile Home Park are being displaced by the county’s plans to build a new jail. Dozens of residents and housing advocates showed up at Monday's meeting of the county legislature to demand more compensation.

“We did get a lot of things brought out on the table that were not on the table before and I think that it's definitely a great start,” said Ronisha Rogers, a Heart Village resident.

The county legislature voted unanimously to transfer $1.7 million to a special fund for relocation costs and additional financial assistance for residents. They also voted to cancel rent payments — effective immediately — until tenants complete their moves in February.

The approved plan covers all costs of relocation, as well as $10,000 in housing assistance to each household. That doubles the originally proposed $5,000. It also includes a partnership with the Community Services League, a local nonprofit, to provide two social workers who will help residents with relocation.

Heart Village residents have complained about a lack of communication from the county over the last several months. On Monday, they pressed legislators for an opportunity to speak, chanting, “We’re here now.”

County legislators jockeyed back and forth on delaying the vote to allow for public comment or to pass it in order to make the money immediately available to residents.

Legislators ultimately allowed tenants to speak, with some concerned that they hadn’t yet heard from the residents and the initial assistance amount wasn’t sufficient.

“We haven't had a real plan. ... We've not heard from the people. This has not been done in correct time and hearing from the people that this will affect the most,” said Jalen Anderson, a legislator from Blue Springs.

KC Tenants, a local housing advocacy group, said the assistance increase was a “victory” for residents, but that tenants should be allowed freedom in how to spend it.

“Why would we get assistance? We need compensation. We’ve taken a lot of emotional stress. ... We’re forced to make decisions we weren’t planning on making,” Toi Moore, a Heart Village resident, said.

Some residents were concerned that the housing assistance wouldn’t be useful for those who owned their homes and were no longer renters. Others said the money should go toward non-housing needs like medical problems.

“The majority of the people that live in Heart Mobile are homeowners. They've been living there 30 years, 25 years, 15 years. Some people are brand new homeowners,” Rogers said. “Most people were expecting to live their life out there, and now we're being displaced.”

During public comments, County Administrator Troy Schulte said the county would compensate residents whose homes could not be moved as well as provide funds to those who were renting to own their homes.

As part of the plan, the Community Services League will be required to report back to the county within 30 days after meeting with individual households to determine their need. Additional funds for assistance will then be considered.

The county is requiring tenants to complete their move by Feb. 28.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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