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A Prairie Village apartment is kicking out elderly renters. Experts say that happens across Kansas City

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Kenilworth Apartments in Prairie Village, Kansas, is terminating the lease of hundreds of residents.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Kenilworth Apartments in Prairie Village, Kansas, is terminating the lease of hundreds of residents.

Under new ownership, Kenilworth Apartments is terminating the leases of hundreds of residents so it can renovate the units — before hiking rents by at least 40%.

An apartment building in Prairie Village is pushing elderly residents out of their homes in the name of renovations.

Kenilworth Apartments at 4120 W. 94th Terrace is made up of 211 units; some of its residents have lived in the community for over a decade.

The apartments were purchased by Denver-based Avanti Residential this summer. Shortly after, residents received notices saying their leases would not be renewed at the end of their current term. Following the termination of their leases, Avanti would give residents 30 days to move out.

If residents choose to reapply to Kenilworth, they would still need to vacate their unit for renovations. Residents could temporarily decide to opt out of renovations, but they’d need to pay the same amount of rent as a renovated unit — between a 40-45% increase.

Since many Kenilworth residents are on a fixed income, they worry they have no other option but to leave their homes.

Although Census data puts Johnson County’s median yearly income at almost $90,000, many residents still struggle to afford housing, according to Lindsay Hicks, vice president of development at Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City.

“There are so many individuals that are living in cost-burdened situations,” Hicks said on KCUR’s Up To Date. “Forty percent of the renters in Johnson county are spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. And 18% of homeowners are spending more than 30%, so there definitely is a gap for those individuals that's putting them at risk.”

Hicks says “affordable housing” means that person should not have to spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City recently carried out a study on housing in the area, and Hicks says they found almost half of the people who work in Johnson County can’t afford to live there.

“Forty percent of the total jobs in Johnson County fall within the category of making between $25,000 and $35,000 per year,” Hicks said. “And so those individuals, there's nowhere for them to live in Johnson County simply because there aren't any units that they can afford.”

At Kenilworth, Avanti Residential will be spending around $30,000 per unit on renovations. Hicks says that rent hikes are almost unavoidable when renovations happen, but in this case, the increases should not nearly have been as high.

“Rents are going to increase. Same with the cost of purchasing homes, as of course you've seen that that's increased significantly in Johnson County,” Hicks said. “But there are things we can put in place to protect individuals that are low to moderate income to enable them to be able to safely stay in their homes.”

According to the Shawnee Mission Post, higher rent is why Judy Budihas, one of Kenilworth’s elderly residents, will have to move out of her unit permanently after her lease term ends on Oct. 18. Budhias has lived in the complex for three years, and loved her community and her neighbors. But her rent for a studio apartment would rise from $704 a month to $994, which she couldn’t afford on her fixed income.

“It’s just a situation that I’ve had to accept,” Budihas told Shawnee Mission Post. “I hate this. I hate that I have to move. I loved it here, but it’s not going to be the place I moved into [after renovations]. It’s going to be a totally different atmosphere.”

Brenda Gammie, senior vice president at Avanti, said in a statement that the rent increases imposed at Kenilworth seem drastic because the apartment complex is out-of-date and not well maintained, so units were previously listed under market price.

Hicks disagrees, and says that regardless of Kenilworth’s state when Avanti acquired it, the new owners should have made sure not to force out elderly and low income residents.

“We really are putting them at risk, especially given, you know, the circumstance that they're in,” Hicks said. “And with all the development that's going on in Johnson county, you know, mostly luxury apartments and, and luxury type units, we just aren't coinciding with building enough affordable units that are decent affordable units for families and for our aging individuals that need a little bit more of an affordable unit. We're just not doing both. We're just really focusing on the high end.”

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
As a producer for Up To Date, my goal is to inform our audience by curating interesting and important conversations with reliable sources and individuals directly affected by a topic or issue. I strive for our program to be a place that hosts impactful conversations, providing our audience with greater knowledge, intrigue, compassion and entertainment. Contact me at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz.
As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
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