Protesters withstood single-digit temperatures on the steps of City Hall Monday to share horror stories about landlords kicking their families out after a serious illness or being left with no safe, permanent housing options after an eviction. KC Tenants, a new group advocating for tenants' rights, intends to make housing a central issue in the upcoming mayoral election.
“Housing needs to be the next mayor’s airport,” said activist Tiana Caldwell to cheers of approval.
KC Tenants advanced a long list of policy objectives and specific recommendations aimed at making low-income housing cheaper, safer and more available.
Diane Charity said the city should bar or at least stall landlords from evicting tenants who fall behind on their rent under certain situations.
“It’s cold outside! But you know what, our people are getting evicted in the cold. Our people live homeless in the cold. Our people live without heat in the cold, so we will be out here, and we will say our piece,” Charity said.
Robert Long is president of the Landlords Inc., a not-for-profit representing landlords. He agreed that there is a housing problem in Kansas City but said landlords along can't solve it.
“You can’t go to the grocery store and take groceries without paying for them. And you shouldn’t be able to live in someone’s home, which is really their business, without paying for it,” Long reasoned.
Long agrees with KC Tenants that the city needs a big boost in public spending on low-income housing.
Frank Morris is a senior editor for KCUR 89.3 and a frequent contributor to NPR. Follow him on Twitter: @franknewsman