A Game Changer for Kansas City

This is one planner’s perspective on the importance of taking part in HUD’s Prosperity Playbook.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched an effort to work with five cities across the country, including Kansas City, Missouri, to create a Prosperity Playbook that identifies the most impactful techniques to create housing options and opportunities for all segments of our community in a manner that leads to greater collective prosperity.

Jeffrey WilliamsOur city’s participation, championed by Mayor Sly James, will be focused on the identification of housing alternatives that are context sensitive, regionally beneficial and created through locally driven efforts utilizing long standing partnerships and newly identified strategic alliances. As this conversation and policy identification endeavor takes place the creation of housing alternatives for the region must be structured around two basic concepts:

  • Maximizing participant diversity in order to gain a better knowledge of the widest range of housing issues and opportunities: It was important that at the event which announced this initiative, many participants focused on who was not in the room, but should be. If a diversity of housing alternatives is the desired outcome of the Playbook, a diverse representation of our residents and housing providers must be at the table crafting this document.
  • Emphasizing best practices that involve meaningful local community and long term stakeholder participation resulting in direct economic benefit: Housing and community reinvestment undertaken in an environment where all contributing parties recognize that successful alternatives to offering housing access and options are flexible to meet unique, context based housing needs will offer a greater level of assuring prosperity outcomes.

For Kansas City, our participation in helping to create the Prosperity Playbook coincides with two other HUD based transformative housing efforts:

  • In September 2015 we were the recipients of a Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant that will offer resident of the city’s aged Chouteau Courts public housing development located northeast of downtown and immediately adjacent to I-70 alternative housing options. A partnership of tenant representatives, neighborhood associations, community service providers, city staff, housing authority officials and the selected housing developer is collectively working to identify and implement enhanced housing, educational, employment and economic development options for the entire community. The Choice experience is one that will serve as a strong foundation for us in offering input for the Playbook.
  • Since July of 2015 we have been participating in the ConnectHome initiative which provides internet access, equipment and training for families living in HUD-assisted housing. The initiative aims to conquer the digital divide by accelerating broadband adoption. The forthcoming conversations to be had in order to develop this Playbook must include how to best leverage residential access to and use of technology to assist in the reduction of housing maintenance costs for tenants and property owners. These technological considerations should also be looked at as a springboard to discussing and understanding how the emergence of the sharing economy can play a part in diversifying housing options and reducing the cost of housing production and household maintenance.

The Prosperity Playbook offers a unique framework of peer-to-peer exchange across the country focused on housing alternatives and its prosperity benefit from uncharted points of consideration. I look forward to the next six months of working with fellow planners in the Kansas City region, the four other participating communities and at HUD as we use our knowledge, experience and passion for growing vital, desirable, sustainable communities to assist in the Prosperity Playbook’s creation.

About the Author

Jeffrey Williams became director of city planning and development for Kansas City, Missouri, in March 2015 after joining the department in July 2013 as its principal assistant to the planning director. He has worked in the fields of urban design, historic preservation, and city planning at local and county government agencies for over 25 years. Previously, Williams served as the commissioner of planning and development for the cities of Yonkers, New York, and Mount Vernon, New York.

Top image: Kansas City, Missouri, skyline. Photo by Flickr user Vincent Parsons (CC BY-NC 2.0).


March 11, 2016
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