Kansas City could turn another hotel into affordable housing
Kansas City plans to buy a hotel near the Grandview border to create affordable apartments for the homeless.
The building, which would be converted into 99 studio apartments, including kitchenettes and individual bathrooms and showers, would be managed by the Kansas City Housing Authority.
The hotel, currently an Americas Best Value Inn & Suites at 11801 Blue Ridge Boulevard, was donated to the city by its owners for $3.2 million. The city is also budgeting about half a million dollars for support services at the complex, which borders a neighborhood of Grandview.
The apartments would be accessible to people with disabilities and all residents would receive comprehensive services focusing on education, health, employment, financial literacy and budgeting.
Members of the city’s homelessness task force said the project will add much-needed affordable housing to the city’s inventory and provide a dignified and affordable solution.
Following an evaluation, a new ordinance will be presented and heard in committee with the possibility of public testimony before being submitted to council for final approval. Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, 5th District, said if the plan is approved, it could take at least three or four months.
Last December, Kansas City Council approved a similar project: the conversion of a former Days Inn hotel at 5100 E. Linwood Blvd. to transitional housing. The plan initially allocated $400,000 to create a “housing navigation center”, including comprehensive services through a partnership with Lotus Care House.
The building has been redesigned to create 39 rooms for homeless people, with a focus on 55+, single women, people with medical conditions and the LGBTQ+ community.
Lack of affordable housing
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, homelessness has been increasingly visible in Kansas City as people have lost their jobs, health and livelihoods.
“We knew that people who had never touched the system before might be pushed a bit too far and needed housing,” said Josh Henges, Kansas City’s first homelessness prevention coordinator.
Local agencies estimated there were about 2,000 homeless people around Kansas City. As they obtain housing, many also enter homelessness for the first time.
And there is very little accessible and affordable housing in the city.
Edwin Lowndes, executive director of the city’s housing authority, said the biggest need exists for singles and very low-income couples. As of Tuesday, he had 13,500 families on a waiting list for vouchers. About 8,000 were single people who could not find affordable housing.
The two main programs through the housing authority are public housing and a housing choice voucher program, he said, both of which use federal funds to help cover rent. But the hotel program would be stand-alone, rather than tied to Article 8 requirements, giving more flexibility to who they can help.
At the hotel, tenants will pay what they can afford or below market rent based on income. The rest will be subsidized. Utilities will be covered by the city, eliminating another barrier to entry for residents.
Lowndes said those wishing to live in the hotel apartments will have to go through a screening process. Leases will include duties and responsibilities for being part of the community. There will also be 24/7 security on site.
But unlike other leases, which allow a landlord To easily evict someone for violating the terms, hotel residents will have the option of working with social workers to resolve any issues.
Not an emergency shelter
Henges told the few dozen people gathered for a community meeting on Tuesday evening, including members of the Crossgates neighborhood of Grandview, that he understands the frustration and anxiety that can surround opening a shelter.
But it is not a refuge, he repeatedly stressed. Rather, it is an apartment complex that will allow the city to maintain nearly 100 apartments without having to “bargain” with individual owners.
As with any apartment complex, individuals could choose to live there as their first home or permanently.
Marquia Watson, executive director of the Greater KC Coalition to End Homelessness, said while emergency shelter acts as a lifesaving intervention, the goal of the hotel conversion is to end homelessness for people in giving them a longer track to move into permanent housing. It also reduces the likelihood that they will return to homelessness.
“Housing is what ends homelessness,” she said. “Housing is what created communities.”
Watson said that while they don’t target a specific demographic for the units, the apartments could be a way for single parents whose children have been taken from them to work for visitation and reunification once their situation ends. stabilized.
Several members of the community, having had the chance to offer written comments during the virtual meeting, were concerned that the value of their properties would decrease. City leaders assured them not.
“Would you literally want this in your backyard?” one person wrote. “Nice neighbors don’t even want a Walmart near their property.”
Others expressed concern that the bus service was insufficient. City leaders said they are working with RideKC to resolve this issue.
“This is a great project that I would love to see in my neighborhood,” commented Amanda Wilson of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. “Much better than camps that have no services or programs.”