KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
Repurposing vacant homes in Kansas City, Missouri, is among several new initiatives announced by city leaders to address homelessness. The plans look to provide shelter and affordable housing in the city, as well as connect the homeless community with resources to help lift them out of poverty.
A homeless camp outside city hall is a constant reminder to leaders of the persistent challenge of homelessness in Kansas City. Under one plan announced Thursday, vacant homes could become shelters for those who need it.
“I know a lot of people have experienced not know where you’re gonna sleep that night, I’ve known that,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, touching on his own experience with homelessness as he joined city leaders at Hope Faith Ministries.
The group announced a new program that would sell vacant land bank properties for $1, with stipulations.
“That they fully rehabilitate and renovate those properties and that they make those properties available for anyone who is in need of housing and for those in the lowest income brackets,” explained city manager Brian Platt.
More than 100 homes are available and the city hopes nonprofits, faith-based groups and other service providers will answer the call.
Another plan centers on Barney Allis plaza. The city hopes to add hundreds of affordable housing units on top of the downtown parking structure when it’s rebuilt.
“We’re looking at this parking deck and a significant requirement of financial investment and realized that if we’re gonna be spending a lot of city resources, we should get something out of it some sort of public benefit,” Platt said.
“We hope that this will provide housing for those who are most in need and that it will serve to increase the supply of housing,” he added. “That is often the top of the list when we talk about one of the biggest challenges when we’re addressing homelessness and affordable housing.”
The mayor and several city council members have also introduced an ordinance to create a standalone housing department to focus on affordable housing, homelessness and tenants’ rights.
“What we haven’t done is said, ‘where are the resources? Where’s the planning? Where’s the long-term policy to make sure that we are matching people not just with homes but with opportunity?’” Lucas said.
As long-term projects move forward, Lucas says the city is committed to working with community partners to connect the homeless community with the resources they need right now. “What we’re trying to do as a city is to make sure we have a place for people to go, we have a place for people to get services,” he said, “and that’s where our priority is going to be.”