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Kansas City Council kills tax incentives for Midtown apartments, puts money to affordable housing

Wide angle image shows a street intersection where a US Bank building sits on the corner in the middle of the frame.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
MAC Properties wants to build an apartment building at Main Street and Armour Boulevard, but says it needs financial help from the city.

Instead of setting aside $10.5 million for a MAC Properties development on Armour and Main, several City Council members argued it would be more beneficial to put that money into the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The Kansas City Council voted Thursday to kill a $10.5 million tax incentive package for a proposed MAC Properties development in Midtown, and instead redirect money into the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The council voted 9-3 in favor of an ordinance directing the city on how to spend about $1 million in surplus money collected annually from property and sales taxes generated by the Midtown Tax Increment Financing District.

But it only won approval after the council removed language providing a 20-year, $10.5 million tax incentive package for a residential and commercial development along Main Street and Armour Boulevard.

The $105 million project by Chicago-based MAC Properties would be located on the site of a current U.S. Bank branch, and include 385 apartment units plus retail and office space. Their proposal set aside 20% of the units to be affordable, in accordance with city requirements.

However, council members argued that instead of spending city funds on a single development, it would be more beneficial to put that money towards the creation or preservation of affordable housing throughout Kansas City.

“We say we want affordable housing, but we’re not delivering on it,” said Fourth District Councilman Eric Bunch, whose district includes Midtown, during debate.

Bunch said he received many emails from constituents detailing issues living in apartments owned by MAC Properties. And he said that incentive packages, like the one requested by MAC Properties, did not come with a third-party financial review, which is typical of tax incentive requests. Bunch said the request by MAC Properties for its Main and Armour project should be evaluated on a “level-playing field” and include that financial analysis to determine if a tax abatement is necessary.

Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson opposed the incentives for MAC Properties, saying that their developments in Midtown have displaced residents — an argument also made by housing advocacy group KC Tenants.

“Once you know that something doesn't work and it's not getting you to your goal to be inclusive, to do something different,” Robinson said during Wednesday’s Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee meeting. “Putting the dollars into the Housing Trust Fund will help us to provide more truly affordable housing.”

The amendment removing the MAC Properties incentives was introduced by Fifth District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw and approved through a 7-5 vote.

First District-at-Large Councilman Kevin O’Neill supported the amendment, saying the city is allowing developers to drive low-income housing development.

“We're talking about $10 million here going into low-income housing,” O’Neill said. “I would rather see that money go into a fund that actually directs where the housing is needed, not where developers want it to be.”

The ordinance also directs some of the city’s surplus funds to the Rehabilitation Assistance for Midtown Properties (RAMP) program, which offers financial assistance for home maintenance and rehabilitation. The Housing Trust Fund will receive a majority of the surplus money.

Fourth District-at-Large Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who co-sponsored the original proposal and supported the incentive package for MAC properties, voted against the amendment and the final ordinance. First District Councilwoman Heather Hall and Second District Councilwoman Teresa Loar also voted against the final ordinance.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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