KC Gearing Up to Adopt First Affordable Housing Plan
2018-09-11 | Kansas City Star
City officials are scheduled Wednesday to introduce a first-ever long-range housing plan, intended to expand ownership opportunities for low-income residents and spur more of a social and economic mix in a city with a long and deplorable history of residential segregation.
"We need to set a lofty goal," said
The plan, commissioned by the
Home prices continue to rise while the inventory of houses for sale -- especially for first-time buyers -- remains tight.
Nearly half of the city's renters and a quarter of homeowners meet HUD's definition of "cost burdened," meaning they are spending more than 30 percent of their annual household income on mortgage or rent.
Officials estimate that the city needs 7,000 additional affordable units for families making less than
It's an urgent issue in virtually every community.
An estimated 38 million rental and owner-occupied households are cost-burdened, according to the
"This is a national failing we're experiencing at the community level," said
Trust fund for housing
If there was a single moment that underscored
One and Two Light, the first two high-rises built by Cordish Companies with tax abatements and other publicly financed incentives, were successes. Given the scarcity of low- and moderately priced housing across the city, a couple of council members asked, why should they continue subsidizing high-end downtown apartments?
The council, concluding that it was bound by a 2004 agreement, grudgingly agreed to extend the incentives to Three Light. But not without extracting a commitment from Cordish to create 100 low-priced apartments at the historic Midland office building.
The proposed housing blueprint would give the city more tools to require developers to include such apartments. It's a plan long employed elsewhere but yet to be used in
A housing trust fund of as much as
A principal goal is to help low-income residents restore the urban core's huge stock of vacant homes, lifting them into ownership where banks have been unwilling to extend financing.
"One of the messages people need to get out of all this is, 'Why pay rent?'" said Wood.
In the last two years, trust funds have been created in
Wood said a mix of public, private and philanthropic dollars will be essential.
"It's a fantasy to think we can do this alone," he said. "We have to make a bold case for funding to support this."
Options for public funding include bonds and revenue from the 1/8-cent sales tax for
Inclusionary zoning explained
It's been around for many years -- in
The particulars vary, but the basic idea is that residential developers are required to set aside anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of new construction for low- and moderate-income households. The units must be within reach of families making anywhere from 60 percent to 100 percent of an area's median annual household income. In
In exchange, developers receive the right to build beyond what would normally be allowed under conventional zoning.
Other incentives include relaxation of parking requirements, expedited permitting and reduced fees. In some communities, developers can opt out of the affordability requirement by making payments the city can use for housing.
Local proponents see it as a crucial hedge against gentrification as development begins to move along the Troost corridor and neighborhoods to the east.
"I think we're at a critical point," said
Inclusionary zoning has drawn opposition from the housing industry in other cities as an assault on property rights and more government regulation. It is likely to trigger push back here as well.
"I understand the intent and the need for affordability," said
Wood said a careful study will need to be conducted first, looking at the potential impact of the zoning change on the local housing market.
"We don't think it should be just laid on the table and say 'This is it,'" said Wood. "We don't want to drive developers away."
What do mayoral candidates say?
The affordability debate is landing in the midst of the 2019 mayoral race.
Lucas is also expected to introduce his own package of proposals this week.
One would revise a measure he successfully sponsored last year, increasing from 10 percent to 15 percent the proportion of affordable units in projects where developers have accepted tax abatements or other incentives. They must be within reach of households making up to 80 percent of median income.
He will also propose a housing trust fund financed, at least in the short term, with public money. He would expect
On inclusionary zoning, Lucas said he is not persuaded that a study is needed before the council can act.
"I think what the council and our community are looking for are ambitious proposals, not simply directions for more study," he said.
Lucas said he will introduce a resolution requiring City Manager
If the resolution is approved, Schulte will likely still recommend a "nexus study," a detailed analysis of the local housing market and demographics designed to see what level of mandated affordability is possible.
Here are the other candidates' housing ideas:
"There's more opportunity to rehab existing housing stock and keep property affordable in the (urban) core," Canady said.
-- Crossroads businessman
He also supports freezing the property taxes of long-term low-income residents to protect against gentrification.
"We are not past the point of no return," he said.
-- Community activist
-- Mayor Pro Tem
The council's housing committee is scheduled to discuss affordability proposals
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