A million-dollar housing project in Kansas City is being built to achieve two things: get homeless veterans permanent housing and restore blighted, abandoned properties in the urban core.
Neighborhoods United, an area non-profit, is teaming up with the Kansas City, Missouri, branch of the NAACP and the Black Economic Union to restore empty properties in blighted neighborhoods and convert them into energy-efficient duplexes for veterans and people with disabilities.
Standing on the corner of 20th and Walrond on Tuesday, Bill Kimble, with Neighborhoods United, showed stakeholders the first project.
“This structure has been empty and vacant for 10, 15 years," Kimble says.
He says with his background as a general contractor, he can restore the units at a low cost — he estimates about $50,000-$60,000 per structure. Each structure would have two living units. The first building has already been stripped down to the studs, so everything in the refurbished units will be new.
"New windows, new doors, new roof, we’re going to put new siding, and everything in these structures will be brand new," Kimble says.
With the $1 million he has for this project, he'll be able to convert several buildings within a four-block radius into duplexes.
“But we want the occupants of the urban core to know that this money is going right into this neighborhood, its going right into the rehabilitation of these homes and the revitalization of this community,” Kimble says.
The money isn't helping pay for office space or overhead costs.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, who worked with Kimble in the planning stages, says projects like these are vital to helping solve the problem of chronic, homeless veterans.
He says over the past few years, Kansas City has gone from having more than 400 homeless veterans who are looking for housing, to less than 20. The goal is to get to a "functional zero" — which means being able to house homeless veterans looking for permanent housing within 90 days.
"But to get to that functional zero number, that we are desperately trying to get to ...what it takes to get to that number and to sustain it are projects like these," Wagner says.
Wagner said he hopes other people will look at this project and see that they too can remove blight in their own neighborhoods.
Kimble expects construction on the first project to be completed in the spring. He says veterans will be able to use housing vouchers to pay rent.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.