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Tenants' Rights Group Makes Last-Minute Appeal To Kansas City Voters Before Election

Alex Smith
KCUR 89.3
Housing advocate Diane Charity expressed her frustation at Kansas City leadership before a neighborhood canvasing event.

In the final days before Kansas City voters decide on new leadership, a recently-formed advocacy group is making a push to highlight the priorities of property renters.

On Saturday, about 60 organizers and volunteers with KC Tenants in Action gathered at a training event and canvased neighborhoods in a door-to-door campaign with a goal of reaching 3000 households.

“Now is the time, right?” organization director Tara Raghuveer asked the group, “If we wait until the next election, the city will have been bought and sold. The people in this room won’t [be able to] afford to live here.”

KC Tenants in Action was formed 6 weeks ago, according Raghuveer, to address concerns of renters in Kansas City, including legal protections for tenants, housing affordability and what they consider undue influence of property developers in city politics.

On its scorecard of mayoral candidates, the group ranked Quinton Lucas, Alissia Canady and Jermaine Reed highest for their positions on tenant issues, based on the results of questionnaires sent to candidates.

Among city council candidates, Austin Strassle, who is running for councilmember at-large 4th district, ranked especially highly.

At Saturday’s event, held at Service Employees International Union Local 1 headquarters in Midtown, organizers expressed frustration with outgoing Mayor Sly James and the actions taken by current city leadership, which they said has disregarded the needs of renters in favor of developers’ interests.

“Because we are perceived as second-class citizens, they don’t have to respond or be accountable to us,” said Diane Charity, “But there’s strength in numbers.”

The volunteers included a number of University of Missouri – Kansas City students who said that they were being taken advantage of by property owners.

Some participants requested not to be identified out of fear of retaliation by landlords or property owners.

Raghuveer, who is a Kansas City native and Harvard-educated researcher, said she wants the campaign to be the start of a long-term effort to address housing issues.

Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. You can reach him by email at alexs@kcur.org.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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