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This Eviction Researcher Says It's Time For Kansas City's Renters To Organize

File photo by Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Tara Raghuveer says after the 2008 financial crisis, Kansas City saw a huge uptick in out-of-state real estate investors. "It's an extraction economy that makes money for people who don't live in Kansas City."

Tara Raghuveer wants to raise the alarm.

"The national housing crisis has not skipped over Kansas City," she says. "Half the people in this city are tenants and many of them have issues with their housing."

Raghuveer is the woman behind the Kansas City Eviction Project, which has analyzed 18 years of eviction filings in Jackson County.

"I found that 42 people per business day are evicted through the formal process alone," she says. "That doesn't account for all the evictions that happen outside of the courts and with no data to represent them."

Having combed through more than 180,000 eviction records, Raghuveer says it's time for action.

"Poor folks, workers, people of color can still afford to live in Kansas City and for the most part haven't been totally displaced," she says, "but if we wait five years to make a bold intervention, they will be displaced."

That's why Raghuveer has recently moved from Chicago back to her native Kansas City and is working to organize renters. For now, she's calling the group KC Tenants. It's a "working title," she says, "because I really believe in the idea that this organization will be successful in so far as directly impacted folks are in leadership, and making decisions about strategic things like what we call ourselves."

Credit Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
In August, Kansas City voters approved a rental inspection program administered by the city Health Department, which has hired inspectors to respond to tenant complaints.

Raghuveer has also worked with People's Action, a community organization group in Chicago, and studied sociology and urban studies at Harvard.

The issues she found in Kansas City include landlords who neglect maintenance and property owners who prey on vulnerable communities.

"Maybe they're undocumented immigrants, maybe they're single mothers, maybe they have a criminal history. There are some landlords who select into that market because they know they can turn a profit," she says.

Raghuveer doesn't just want to stave off exorbitant rent rates and fight back against bad landlords. She wants the group to become a political force.

"What is possible is that we have yogurt shops and $5 coffees on every block, but we don't have any people of color who can afford to live in this city anymore," she says. "That's all possible, but it's not inevitable."

Raghuveer spoke with Steve Kraske on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date. Listen to the entire conversation here.
For more information about KC Tenants, email tara@kctenants.org.

Luke X. Martin is associate producer of KCUR's Up To Date. Contact him at luke@kcur.org or on Twitter, @lukexmartin.

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at <a href="mailto:luke@kcur.org" target="_blank" link-data="{&quot;cms.site.owner&quot;:{&quot;_ref&quot;:&quot;0000016e-ccea-ddc2-a56e-edfe57dc0000&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;ae3387cc-b875-31b7-b82d-63fd8d758c20&quot;},&quot;cms.content.publishDate&quot;:1678386246938,&quot;cms.content.publishUser&quot;:{&quot;_ref&quot;:&quot;00000170-820a-de8d-af78-a70f6b270000&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;6aa69ae1-35be-30dc-87e9-410da9e1cdcc&quot;},&quot;cms.content.updateDate&quot;:1678386246938,&quot;cms.content.updateUser&quot;:{&quot;_ref&quot;:&quot;00000170-820a-de8d-af78-a70f6b270000&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;6aa69ae1-35be-30dc-87e9-410da9e1cdcc&quot;},&quot;cms.directory.paths&quot;:[],&quot;anchorable.showAnchor&quot;:false,&quot;link&quot;:{&quot;attributes&quot;:[],&quot;cms.directory.paths&quot;:[],&quot;linkText&quot;:&quot;luke@kcur.org&quot;,&quot;target&quot;:&quot;NEW&quot;,&quot;attachSourceUrl&quot;:false,&quot;url&quot;:&quot;mailto:luke@kcur.org&quot;,&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000186-c79d-db71-a7b6-dfbd97080001&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;ff658216-e70f-39d0-b660-bdfe57a5599a&quot;},&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000186-c79d-db71-a7b6-dfbd97080000&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;809caec9-30e2-3666-8b71-b32ddbffc288&quot;}">luke@kcur.org</a>.