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