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Kansas City voters approve $175 million in bonds for affordable housing and convention center

A  long concrete and glass building with geometric patterns stretches along a road. It has a sign on it that reads Kansas City Convention Center.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The bond measure allows city officials to spend $45 million to address convention facility deferred maintenance, including replacing 15-year-old carpet, repairing outdated restrooms and modernizing technology.

Kansas City will invest general obligation bond funds over the next five years to upgrade parks and recreation centers and convention facilities and to create more affordable housing units.

Voters resoundingly supported Kansas City’s proposal to spend $175 million in general obligation bond funds over the next five years for major upgrades to park and convention center facilities and for affordable housing, according to unofficial election results Tuesday night.

General obligations bonds are paid off with property tax money. These measures will not require a property tax increase because other city debt will roll off before these bonds are issued.

“Thank you for your support for our vision for a better Kansas City,” Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted Tuesday night. “Thank you for your overwhelming support of our transformational investment in affordable housing and funding to build up parks and public spaces in every Kansas City neighborhood.”

The vote was 71% to 29% for Question 1, pertaining to the parks and convention center facilities. Because it involved general obligation bonds, under Missouri law the question needed a super-majority of 57 percent approval to pass, and it achieved that threshold both north and south of the Missouri River.

The voter support means Kansas City will spend $80 million over five years to reopen shuttered public pools, to fix up its 10 community centers and repair historic fountains, and to do other playground and park improvements. It will also spend $45 million to address convention facility deferred maintenance, including replacing 15-year-old carpet, repairing outdated restrooms and modernizing technology.

The city had said it was losing convention business because of current shoddy conditions at Bartle Hall.

Voters also supported Question 2, relating to affordable housing, by 71% to 29% margin. This also required 57 percent voter approval.

The measure allows Kansas City to spend $50 million over the next five years for affordable housing for low-income residents. According to Mayor Quinton Lucas, this would be the largest investment Kansas City has ever made for affordable housing.

Kansas City urgently needs more affordable housing stock, as monthly rents and the cost of home-ownership have skyrocketed. Civic leaders and the KC Tenants Power political group endorsed the proposal, which is intended to help create about 2,000 affordable housing units.

"At KC Tenants Power, we support the development of truly affordable housing. We know we can have a city that is diverse, prosperous, beautiful … without putting profits before our lives. That’s why we supported, fought for, and won this $50 million bond for housing Kansas City really needs, and that we can truly afford,” Gabe Coppage, a leader with KC Tenants Power and Midtown Tenant Union, said in a statement. 

An ordinance passed by the city council in October mandates that the money generated from the bond will prioritize “deeply affordable” housing — between about $550 and $750 per month — making it a realistic option for tenants whose household income is 30% of the Kansas City area median income (AMI).

Voters also approved Question 3, which allows Kansas City to remove two land tracts, totaling nearly 12 acres, from the park system, to realign a piece of property for the proposed Tiffany Springs Parkway in the Northland. This ballot measure needed a simple majority and passed 55% to 45%.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance writer in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.
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