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'This is now real.' Residents react to foreclosure of Kansas City’s oldest Black-owned housing co-op

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Parade Park Homes, one of the oldest Black-owned housing cooperatives in the nation, is in foreclosure.

The possibility of foreclosure has loomed over Parade Park Homes for more than a year. Now that it's happening, some residents are relieved. But without clear plans for what the changes entail, others are nervous they'll be priced out of their homes.

For more than a year, residents of Parade Park Homes have faced the possibility of foreclosure. The aging townhome community, which opened in the 1960s, once served as a charming, affordable route to home ownership for Black families in the 18th and Vine District. But after decades of infighting on the board and shoddy management, the co-op is crumbling, both physically and as an organization. Now, the federal government is foreclosing the property.

Kendra Jackson, 46, who grew up in Parade Park, said getting the news of foreclosure felt like a loss — but it was something she was ready for.

“We all saw it coming and so I had kind of grieved that a long time ago," Jackson said. "And so again, when we got the letter of course to read it, it's like, ‘OK, this is now for real.’ But I had already kind of grieved that process a while ago."

Last fall, after a slew of inspections brought to light dangerous living conditions and put the co-op in violation of their regulatory agreement, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development took federal control of Parade Park Homes. HUD installed Virginia-based Leumas Residential, LLC, to manage the community and its finances.

Since then, Leumas has started maintenance on the property, hired a security patrol and sealed vacant units. Leumas carried out inspections of each unit and required residents to certify their leases.

According to letters obtained by KCUR, HUD announced to Parade Park residents on April 25 that it had determined foreclosure was “the best path forward to transfer control of the property to a new owner who can successfully redevelop/rehab Parade Park and maintain the property over years to come, with protections for current and future residents.”

On May 22, HUD sent residents another letter, notifying them the board had failed to provide sufficient legal reasoning to halt foreclosure.

In a statement to KCUR, Christopher Henderson, an attorney representing Parade Park Homes, said the board opposes foreclosure and plans to challenge it.

Henderson accused HUD of allowing the property to be mismanaged by Leumas and not communicating in good faith with the board. He also objected to any plan that would result in current residents losing equity in their property.

“We are not averse to change or development in this area. Rather, we insist upon being stakeholders in any new developments that happen in and around Parade Park homes, and we insist that the members' equities stakes are fully accounted for,” Henderson wrote.

File photo. From left to right, Myrtle Bailey, Lynn Williams, Debra Williams, and Glenda Bushnell sit in Debra William's living room. The women are current and former residents of Parade Park. They were all adamant supporters of redevelopment.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
File photo. From left to right, Myrtle Bailey, Lynn Williams, Debra Williams, and Glenda Bushnell sit in Debra William's living room. The women are current and former residents of Parade Park. They were all adamant supporters of redevelopment.

Dysfunction on the board of directors 

Parade Park Homes was created as a housing co-op, which means instead of renting, residents own a share of the nonprofit that controls Parade Park. A board of directors is tasked with managing the cooperative’s finances, setting community bylaws, overseeing day-to-day business and more.  

Until she moved out last fall, Myrtle Bailey was a longtime resident and former board member at Parade Park. She lived there for more than a decade. Bailey served as board secretary from February to September 2022, when she and two other board members resigned due to disagreements and a lapse in the board’s insurance.

During Bailey’s tenure, there were two options on the table to preserve Parade Park and avoid foreclosure: total redevelopment or rehabilitation. The majority of board members favored rehabilitation and wanted to remain a co-op, but they dragged their feet on making progress towards either.

Because of the dire state Parade Park was in, Bailey felt that redevelopment was the only option. Many other residents felt that way, too. Bailey said although she fought to avoid foreclosure, part of her is relieved that at least some action is being taken. But she recognizes some residents feel ignored or unheard.

“I feel sorry for some of the residents, most of the residents actually who wanted redevelopment now don't have as many options as they might have had, had the property been redeveloped,” Bailey said.

The Missouri Secretary of State’s business filing records show that the Parade Park board failed to renew the cooperative’s status as a non-profit before the December 2022 deadline. Bailey said this makes the board defunct and dissolves the co-op.

“At this point, the foreclosure is going to shorten the timeline for everyone on the property, whether they supported redevelopment or supported rehabbing ... the cooperative basically is defunct,” said Bailey. “That small nucleus of folk who desperately wanted a housing co-op to be revived have been dealt a very severe blow. There were so many options that could have been implemented.”

 A woman si.ts on a navy couch in her living room
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Kendra Jackson sits in the living room she has lovingly decorated in her two-bedroom townhouse in Parade Park Homes. She says she is saddened by the foreclosure but she is ready to move on.

An uncertain timeline

Resident Kendra Jackson said although she would have preferred redevelopment instead of foreclosure, she is trying to focus on the future and remain positive.

“It's been painful, especially for us long-term members and even new members, you know, how the collapse of the longest Black co-op is going down,” she said. “There's been a lot of blaming and just ill spirits and negative attitudes and we've lived in that space for quite a while, so I'm just glad that we've now come to some kind of closure, even if that means foreclosure.”

But she said her immediate future is still uncertain. She said Leumas is in touch with residents, but details about the foreclosure process have been scant.

“What will that (foreclosure) look like? Will we still be able to live here? Will we have to move?" she wondered. "If we do — if we have the option to stay here — will we be grandfathered in? Will the rent now be that of the market rate to $1,500 or $2,000?”

In a statement to KCUR, a HUD spokesperson said the department is working to ensure safe living conditions for current residents while it makes plans to preserve the property.

“HUD has begun the foreclosure process with a notice to the residents and the City. We will work through that process over coming months while keeping residents and the City informed regularly,” a spokesperson told KCUR. “A sale of the property will include protections for affordability and commitment to a capital plan for the property.”

HUD did not provide a projected timeline, but in a letter to residents, the department estimated the foreclosure sale will happen sometime between November-December 2023. The letter said that within 12 months of closing, HUD should receive a final redevelopment plan from the new owner.

Who lives in Parade Park?

In December of last year, HUD carried out a survey of residents. Less than half of the 510 units are currently occupied. According to documents obtained by KCUR, 119 residents responded to the survey, representing 53% of households.

The survey found 35% of residents were 70 or older, 36% were between 50 and 60 years old, and 30% were under 50. Nearly 80% of residents wanted to stay at Parade Park and half wanted to retain some form of ownership of the property. Nearly 90% of residents ranked their income as low, very low or extremely low, based on the Kansas City HUD Metro area median family income of $97,000.

The view of Downtown, Kansas City, from Parade Park Homes
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Located in the 18th & Vine District, Parade Park Homes is just a stone's throw from downtown. Resident Kendra Jackson says its convenient location is one of the many things she loves about living in the neighborhood.

Jackson said she’s spent most of her life in Parade Park. She moved away for a brief time in her 20s and then moved back into the neighborhood in 2007.

She said it has been difficult, especially recently, to not have a solid idea of her living situation. She said she’s been trying to make the best of it by decorating for summer and cleaning up her patio.

“Nobody likes uncertainty, right? And so just to be living here and waiting is kind of sad, but it's also appreciative of what I have," she said. "And also just having to have a positive mindset.”

One thing Jackson loves about Parade Park is the sense of community. She said she enjoyed watching her son and some of the other neighborhood kids grow up in Parade Park. When Jackson's son was murdered a couple of months before his high school graduation in 2015, she said her neighbors at Parade Park rallied around her.

Whether she gets to stay at Parade Park or has to move, Jackson hopes for peace in the future.

“Because we all know after we've had these hard days, at the end of the day, our homes are our sanctuary," she said. "And so you don't want to come home to dishevelment or, you know, just the unknown. You wanna come home and feel safe, you know ... the number one need is to feel safe.”

Updated: June 5, 2023 at 7:59 PM CDT
This story was updated to include a statement from an attorney representing Parade Park Homes, Inc.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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