KC Tenants confront Mayor Quinton Lucas over ‘unacceptable’ proposal for affordable housing trust fund
KC Tenants and allies rallied at City Hall on Wednesday over the mayor’s proposal for an affordable housing trust, which they argue will give more money to developers rather than to renters.
Some 30 members from KC Tenants filed into City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, walking one-by-one through security on their way to Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office.
Reciting chants of “Mayor Q, where are you?” and “House the people,” the housing rights group called the mayor out for not keeping his word on an affordable housing trust fund.
“To be clear, KC Tenants, we believe that the people closest to the problem are those closest to the solution,” member Ron Clark told the mayor. “A formal board must include poor and working class tenants, because without this oversight, there's a chance that this board could become another developer slush fund. So I'm gonna ask you one more time, will you commit to the housing trust fund having a governing board of poor and working class tenants?”
Kansas City first established a trust fund to address affordable housing in December 2018, but the trust fund did not have a permanent funding source.
In June, KC Tenants presented its own plans to City Council for what they called a People’s Housing Trust Fund, which called for $30 million in funding — $22 million of which would come from the Kansas City Police Department budget, and the other $8 million mainly from dedicated taxes on developers.
With the purpose of both preserving and expanding affordable housing around the metro, the KC Tenants plan aimed to put the voices of those who experience housing instability at the forefront of decision-making.
Representatives of the KC Tenants claim that in July, Lucas agreed to examine the plan and asked that KC Tenants draft an ordinance, which they shared with him in August.
But the group says that Lucas didn’t fully consider their proposal before drafting his own plan for a housing trust fund — one that advocates say would give more money to developers, instead of investing in renters.
“The Mayor has not reviewed the ordinance, instead moving forward with one of his own, which does nothing meaningful to change the City’s housing strategy, and instead creates another developer slush fund,” KC Tenants said in a statement. “The Mayor’s proposal is unacceptable, especially during an eviction crisis, a surge in homelessness, and ongoing displacement of longtime residents from their homes and neighborhoods due to gentrification.”
The mayor’s ordinance was supposed to be heard by a City Council committee on Wednesday, but Lucas canceled the meeting, citing an “administrative error.”
Despite the schedule change, KC Tenants — joined by the recently formed Armour Flats Tenant Union, plus the KC Homeless Union and other allies — rallied in front of City Hall before meeting with Lucas himself.
“When you give somebody the safe space of a home, you will create a safe space in the community,” Arlene Jacob told the mayor. “My community needs safe homes now more than ever before. Your ordinance won’t do that for me and my neighbors. If anything, it would just push me out.”
Lucas said he could not commit to supporting KC Tenant’s ordinance, because he did not agree with the funding sources. He also wanted to include more housing organizers in the effort.
AJ Herrmann, director of policy for the mayor, said he reviewed the KC Tenants proposal and found it included elements that were illegal under Missouri law.
KC Tenants member Madison Hays told KCUR that they would have been willing to revise the ordinance had Lucas discussed these issues with the group.
“We're not attorneys, we're not politicians,” Hays said. “We don't do this for a living. We're tenants experiencing these problems, so we know how they affect us. If there were things in our ordinance that were illegal or can't be done under the city charter or whatever, it's the mayor's responsibility to help us figure out what we can do differently. It can't be our responsibility to do his job for him.”
Hays said that KC Tenants will continue pushing for their proposal despite the mayor’s stance.
“We will be having a town hall at the end of the month,” Hays says. “We're not done. We're gonna get our People's Housing Trust Fund. That's our next step.”