Housing Town Hall

– It’s been one of the
most nagging issues in our city over the last year. And in fact, it
became so explosive it brought large numbers of
people out onto the streets. Hello, I’m KCPT’s Nick Haines. And I’m talking about
Affordable Housing. – [Crowd] Tenants rights now. Pass our package. Tenants rights now. Pass our package. – [Nick] While many of us
were focused on the holidays, in Kansas City, Missouri,
an historic passing of Tenants Bill of Rights. – The motion passes. (crowd cheering) – Removing barriers from
people who just want respect. Removing barriers for
people who want dignity. Removing barriers for
people who wanna be heard. – [Nick] Its supporters say
it levels the playing field between landlords and renters and it creates a new
office in City Hall to resolve housing disputes
and root out problem landlords. – [Crowd] This is what
democracy looks like. – [Woman] Show me what
democracy looks like. – [Crowd] This is what
democracy looks like. – It won’t go into
effect until June and City Hall still needs to
find cash to make it happen, but what does this
really change? Are landlords big
losers in the deal? And does this do
anything to increase the amount of Affordable
Housing in our city? This hour we’re heading
to the Plaza Library for answers to those questions. We’re raising the
roof on housing, with tenants, landlords,
our new mayor, and with you. – [Woman] My paycheck
won’t pay the rent. – [Reporter] Many
Americans who discovered the words affordable and housing don’t necessarily go together. – [Crowd] Tenants rights now. – [Man] Nothing in
this Bill of Rights should scare a landlord
who is already doing right by their tenant. – [Man] It is a
business breaker for us. We will not do business
under these laws. – [Man] This ordinance needs
to have a lot more thought. – [Man] What we need to do is
a new deal (voice muffled). – [Woman] This is a
very important issue. – [Narrator] Support for
this program comes from the Kauffman Foundation,
AARP Kansas City, and from the annual financial
support of viewers like you. Thank you. (intense music) (audience cheering)
– Good evening everyone. Two years ago we were
right here in this space talking about evictions
at that moment in time. And we had an absolutely
packed audience, which was amazing to us. We followed it up with a
documentary called “Evicted” where we looked
at people who were being evicted in Kansas City, and we followed it up with a town hall on
Affordable Housing, and we had a huge crowd
that came for that, too. But did anything change? After all of that talk, did
anything happen differently? Did things get worse? This is what this
hour is all about. Some things did change. Two years ago he was
just a pimply youth, one of 13 voices on
the City Council, today he is your Kansas
City mayor, Quinton Lucas. (audience applauding) Two years ago Tara
Raghuveer was on this stage being introduced as a
Harvard educated researcher. She spent five years
lifting up the hood on the scope and scale of
evictions in Kansas City. Today she leads
one of the metro’s most potent grassroots
movements, KC Tenants. (audience cheering) While Tara was lifting the hood on the city’s housing
problems, Tiana Caldwell, next to Tara was being
evicted from her home after rising medical bills
from a cancer diagnosis left her unable to
keep up with the rent, and she ended up spending
six months with her family in a cheap motel room. Stacey Johnson-Cosby is a
realtor and a landlord who, to put it bluntly,
is fed up with how landlords are
being demonized. She leads a coalition
of home providers and serves on the Jackson
County Board of Equalization, which is coming face-to-face
with citizen anger, over eye popping property
assessments right now. And Sam Alpert is
Executive Director of the Heartland
Apartment Association, which thank you so
much for being with us. And our sixth panelist is you. And we’ll be hearing from you throughout this program as well. But first, Mayor Lucas,
when you ran for office you talked about everything
from tax incentives, there was huge crime, we had
potholes all over the city. But on the very first
day you serve as mayor, that isn’t your priority. The first night
as mayor you go to the east side of Kansas
City to spend the night with a family living
in a town home, documenting their problems
with Affordable Housing. Why was that so important
to you as the major priority on the very first
24 hours in office? – I think if you’re gonna
talk a lot about an issue, you need to make sure
you understand it. And although I grew
up in some properties that were less than ideal,
and we moved around a lot, it had been a few years since
I really got the experience. And so I thought instead
of me just lecturing and saying what I think, we need to do something
as public servants, which is to get out
there and explore and to understand
what’s going on, and to see frankly
some of the conditions that people are forced
to live in everyday. – What did you learn
from that experience? – You know, what I
learned is that frankly it’s very hard, often, for
tenants to be able to fight. We often hear about there
are all these remedies. You can file a suit,
you can do all that. If you’re a regular person
who’s trying to get by, trying to raise your family, trying to actually take care of just gettin’ through the day, then it’s very hard for you to
keep going after a landlord, particularly an
out-of-town landlord, particularly folks
that sometimes are frankly abusive to
their tenants and others, and that’s what I learned
about from that experience. – Public television
audiences two years ago almost in this very
space were learning and seeing you for the
first time, Tara Raghuveer, and you had a major
statistic at that time. 42 eviction notices going out every single day
in Jackson County. Did we do anything
better on that? Did we improve in
the last two years? – Nope, 9500 evictions
were filed in the last day, pegging us at about the same, 42 formal eviction
filings per business day. And I think the
important thing to note, the way that we’re
getting worse is that the folks filing evictions
are continuing to change. So the place where Mayor
Lucas spent his first night is a place called Green
Village Town Homes. And it’s owned by a landlord that does not live
in Kansas City, does not live in the
state of Missouri, and does not live in the
United States of America. They’re a big corporate actor that owns 1800
units in this city, that’s a low estimate, and 1800 in St. Louis, and
they are a plague on our city. They’re extracting
from our economies, and that’s the big change
in the last two years. There are more of them. – You cannot, if you ever watch any media source in Kansas City, and not see Kansas City Tenants, the group that you helped found. – Well I think this is actually
important to talk about in the context of what
happened two years ago. Our conversation
here two years ago was a turning point for me
because I came into a space that was electrified
about this issue that I think a lot of people
didn’t assume was an issue in a community like Kansas City. The rest of the country thinks
that Kansas City’s affordable and people here are doing well. But what we heard that
night two years ago is that this is an issue
that impacts our community, and then I spent two
years coming back here talking to folks about my data. And people cared, they were
aghast, they were angry, but nothing happened until
we started organizing, people were actually
impacted by this problem. And those folks, many of
whom are here tonight, have demanded a
seat at the table, and in a matter of months
we have seen more change in the conversation and the
potential policy in this town than I think in decades before. (audience applauding) The Bill of Rights
catalogs the existing federal, state, and local rights that tenants can
expect to be protected. The second piece
is an ordinance. And that ordinance expands
some of the responsibilities of existing city departments to protect additional
tenant rights and it adds a critical
enforcement mechanism that says if there are
egregious or repeated violations of those tenant rights,
the city has the ability to suspend or revoke
landlord licenses. – [Nick] Tiana Caldwell, how
would that have helped you? – It would have changed my life. I was evicted by my landlord
because I had to choose between my medical expenses
and paying my rent. I chose to live and my
landlord evicted me. Those expenses happened, right? And even though the Cancer
Society was there to back me, was willing to pay all of
those outstanding expenses that had occurred and would
continue to and had my back, the landlord didn’t care. I was evicted anyway. They wanted their
money right now and it didn’t matter
what I was going through. Had that been in place,
with this eviction, and I have this scarred
letter, this scar on my name, and I can’t rent a place, a decent place
without the hassle of them lookin’ at
me under a microscope and saying that I
don’t deserve it. – [Audience Member]
That ain’t right. – So we have a Bill
of Rights for tenants. What is your concern
Stacey Johnson-Cosby? – This is yet another
layer of bureaucracy on top of what already exists. And it also duplicates
many of the protections that are already out
there and in place today. And so instead of
solving the problem, it just adds another
layer of red tape. – The Bill of Rights would
make it illegal to discriminate against tenants based
on rental history. Isn’t that illegal now? – It’s not illegal now. So the rental history
component of the Bill of Rights says that we wanna
end the practice of putting a box on
a rental application that asks whether or
not you’ve been evicted. And if you check the box your application’s
thrown in the trash. – Mandating that
the City Council create a Tenants
Advocates Office with authority to investigate
suspect property owners and revoke landlord permits. Sam, what is your
concern about that? – Well, to begin with,
creating another bureaucracy is troublesome to
us where we know there are limited resources. And we support, we absolutely
support proper enforcement of the regulations
that already exist. And it only costs to add
layers of regulation. It doesn’t provide one new
unit of Affordable Housing. – We’re talking about
creating a new agency, a new department
within city government. Some people are asking,
though, who’s paying for that? You’ve got all these
other problems. – We have lots of challenges. But here’s the thing, I
mean I’m hearing a lot of very kind of general concerns. Too much bureaucracy, red tape, it’s like we’re in the 1980 presidential
election or something. I mean for me I think the
clearer thing we have to say is is this common sensical? In some ways I actually
think this is helpful for housing providers,
tenants and everybody to know what the rules are. Right now to find in
the code of ordinances all the different regulations
is very challenging. – The Bill of
Rights establishes, according to the
original document, a right to council,
mediation for people who make less than 200% of
the federal poverty level, and ask the City
Manager’s Office to pay their attorneys fees. Is that still there? Have you ditched that? Is that still part of it? And who pays for it? – So first of all,
why do we always ask who’s gonna pay for this? Or how are we
going to pay for it when it’s a policy
for the people? We never ask that question–
(audience applauding) We never ask that question when it’s about another $36
million financial backstop for a parking garage downtown. (audience applauding) And, the right to
council and mediation did not make it into
our final proposal. We still want it there. We believe that right to council
is a commonsense solution that actually
saves cities money. Philadelphia just passed
right to council last week after a cost-benefit
analysis showed that it was cheaper for the city to provide council for
tenants on the front end rather than pay for the
cost of homelessness that was increasing
on the backend. – Sam.
(audience applauding) – Right to council? Everyone has a right to council? We also have–
– You have to have money to pay for it. – Pardon me? – You have to have
money to pay for it. – Well we have legal aid. Legal aid is in place. Legal aid receives
a lot of money today.
– Stacey. – What I’d like to say is
when we talk about evictions, if there are 42
evictions per day, there are two victims
in an eviction, the person who is getting
kicked out of the house and the person
who owns the house because chances are great that there is a mortgage
on that house. Many of the, the
profile of probably the typical landlord
or housing provider may be someone that
has one or two houses, maybe someone in the
family passed away and left the house for them, and so they are a landlord. Or some of them may have
five, 10, 20, or 30 homes. And so, and if they
have, in this investment, a mortgage payment
on that property, and then they go with
the person who is sick, the person who looses a job,
and they can’t make the payment the person must then take
care of two households. Now that ain’t right. (audience member applauding)
Now what kind of sense would it be to expect a
person to be in a situation where you take care
of your household and because of someone
else’s bad luck to have to take care of theirs. So my answer about
the right to council is like Sam said earlier, we prevent the
eviction to begin with. I’d rather not pay
money for an eviction on the backside of it because
according to Ms. Brown, our mayor’s attorney,
90% of the eviction cases that she saw when
she was a judge were because of a
lack of payment. You didn’t make the payment and so therefore you
breached their contract, and you’re going to be evicted. No matter how good
the lawyer is, they can’t win that eviction. So I’d rather use the resources
with emergency assistance up front if someone
is in trouble and can’t make that payment, let’s get that payment
in their pocket so they don’t have to
worry about being evicted. – [Nick] We’ll hear
more from tenants, landlords, and the
mayor straight ahead, but first, you hear of people being evicted from their homes, but how does that really work? KCPT’s digital
magazine, Flatland, got an uncomfortable
firsthand look. – [Narrator]
Stephen Summers owns around 50 rental properties
across Kansas City. – We are off to knock on the
door of one of our tenants that we are getting ready
to file an eviction on. We try to educate our tenants. If the rent is late
there are late fees that have to be paid. If they’re gonna be late
to call me, to let me know, because if I don’t hear from ’em I don’t know what’s going on. (knocking on door) – [Narrator] This tenant
in Northeast Kansas City owes Stephen around $3,000, which includes
three months rent. Stephen thought they’d
agreed to a payment schedule, but nothing is
being paid so far, and he can’t reach her by phone. – If there’s no
penalty for not paying, it’s just human nature,
why would you pay? Well, I’m the landlord,
I just came by– – [Narrator] An eviction
can cost Stephen. – An empty house
is a money hole, and it will suck the money right out of my
bank account fast. We don’t want empty houses. Your mom needs to give
me a call right away. – [Narrator] Stephen cancels
the eviction for this tenant after she starts to follow
the payment schedule. But on a later date,
two miles to the south, following a court order,
there’s a different outcome. (dogs barking) – We have to set their personal
items out on the street curb as we are changing the locks and they won’t be allowed
back on the property. – [Narrator] The
tenants aren’t here. Stephen thinks they’re at
work and their kids at school. – Some of the bigger
furniture and the electronics are gonna stay in the house. If the tenant wants them they
can call me at the office. – [Narrator] The
monthly rents was $500, and they haven’t paid
the last four months. Stephen’s team bag up
all the personal items and it’s left on the curb. – [Narrator] Some
people watching this, they think Steve’s a
bit heartless, isn’t he? I mean, this is someone’s home. – I would say, we
followed the law. They had their chance to
come and pay their rent and they refused to. Unfortunately, they’re
paying the price today. – [Narrator] Stephen tries
to avoid evictions like this by only renting
to certain people. – It’s been our experience
over the last 30 years that if someone is paying
more than 25% of their income for their rent they will
not be able to keep that up. (audience applauding)
– The Bill of Rights for Tenants passed
by the City Council, what would it do to landlords,
Sam, in your estimation? – We believe it’s a
disincentive to reinvestment in the housing stock in
our older neighborhoods. And it’s not just our
belief, it’s happening. It’s happening today. We have people
exiting our market because we’re not going
to build our way out of an affordable housing crisis
with new construction. Today the economics
just don’t work. We have to go back
to the existing
serviceable housing stock and reinvest in
that housing stock. This type of regulation
dis-incentivizes people to bring capital to the area. Someone said something
to me many years ago that stuck with me. It says capital goes
where it’s invited and stays where it’s welcome. This is a very
unwelcoming situation, and we’re seen as a
hostile environment throughout the United States
right now for reinvestment. – This is the same
thing they said about Healthy Homes, right? Same two landlords.
(audience applauding) Still in the business. And it’s not about
paying the landlords, because who wants
to pay a landlord who has you livin’
with black mold? Who wants to pay
a landlord where your heat does not work
and it’s cold outside. There is reasons that you should
not have to pay your rent, and they still want it and
they still go to court and win 99.8% of the time. Who wins that much
unless the cards are stacked against
the other side? And that’s real. Nobody wins that
much unless the cards are stacked against
the other side. Nobody should have to pay a
landlord who have you livin’ in subhuman, inhabitable
conditions. No one should have to. And a lawyer would help us keep from havin’ to pay
those expenses. Because we would be
seen from that side. We’d be represented. – Tiana, you mentioned the
Healthy Homes ordinance. Voters went to the polls
last yer and voted for that. That would require–
– And it hasn’t hurt ’em, they’re still here.
– A fee for landlords for each of their units
to allow inspectors to make sure that those
properties were healthy and the conditions were good. At that time landlords claimed
if that were to be passed, landlords would just sell out. They wouldn’t be
part of it anymore. Did that happen? – It did happen, and
the reason I know is because I’m a
real estate agent, and I had a client call
me to sell their listings. Had other agents that
are peers that said that not only were they selling
their personal holdings, but they had clients that were
selling their homes as well. And so I have numerous
stories where that happened. And it’s interesting
that those of us who are in the industry who
said it was going to happen, when it started happening
you won’t believe us, but you’ll believe it in maybe three, four, five
years down the line when our inventory of
affordable housing disappears because people are not willing
to make the investment. What kind of investor
who has a choice of where they spend their money will want to come
into an environment that is punitive with
layers and layers of regulation on them. They’ll go where their
money is welcome. – One that wants to
rent a truly safe, affordable, accessible,
and healthy home. That’s who. (audience applauding) – Here, let me just say stuff, ’cause I gotta hop in. Because there’s
been a lot of stuff, that when I was growing up,
child of a single mother, she worked all the time,
she’s catching the bus, she’s doing all of that. We had all types of things. A window broken
during the winter so it is cold in the house. I slept on the floors
and that sort of thing. Yes, she could have gone to the Jackson
County Circuit Court, gotten a lawyer, filed
a suit for a breach of the implied warranty
of habitability, but she didn’t have the money,
she didn’t have the time, she didn’t have a lawyer,
so what did we do? We slept through that winter
with it cold in the house, with all those types of issues. This is a way that we’re
trying to create equity. And frankly, giving
someone a right to a lawyer doesn’t mean that
you’re actually taking money from
the property owner. All it means is
they actually have a right to fairness and a venue. (audience applauding) – Sam. – And by the way,
let me just say this. This isn’t actually
in the legislation so we don’t even
have to debate it. It’s not there. So let’s just talk
about what’s there. – Sam, we wanna hear from you. – Thank you, I don’t
have to argue your point. So who are the buyers
of these properties that are going on the market? They aren’t local folks. They’re the out-of-town investor who still sees Kansas City
property as a huge bargain compared to what they see on
the East Coast or West Coast. We have very
inexpensive land values in this part of the country. But they don’t ever
realize, however, is how difficult it is to
realize any upside potential from those investments. And so what they do is defer
the maintenance on those units so you wind up with
situation where you have the tenants lumping
all corporate landlords into one big mass. That just, it’s just not so. The vast majority
of multi-family
housing in the region are real estate
investment trusts, large corporate
out-of-town owners, and it’s like any
other commodity. They sign up for a
return on investment. And that is, that’s
the business. – While I was preparing
for this program today, I probably got
seven to eight calls from different landlords locally whose big complaint was
that it’s all fine to offer all of these different new
rules, rights, and opportunities for tenants, but are
you worried, they said, that this is only going to
actually increase the rent that they’re charging tenants. – I’m not concerned
about it because we’ve worked with landlords every step of the way
to write the proposal. There is a landlord
on our strategy team, and what she says, and what many of the landlords
who support us have said, is that if you’re
a good landlord doing right by your tenants, you’ve got nothing
to worry about. – Stacey Johnson-Cosby,
you put out a press release as a leader of the Kansas City
Regional Housing Alliance, that stated if Kansas City
tenants get their way, landlords will be forced
to rent their homes to anyone that just
shows up with cash. – [Audience Member]
That’s not true. – Do you still feel that way? – I don’t believe I said
it exactly like that, but what they wanna do is
expand the protected classes, so beyond race and religion, that now that the person
that you cannot rent to without fear of being sued or have a complaint
brought against you is someone that may have,
we talked before about, their rental history,
they may have evictions. And then if I say, “No, I’m
not going to rent to you “because you have an eviction,” then I open myself
up for liability. If we have a neighborhood, and we know that the
house right here, right next to our
property, has five children and has a single
mom raising ’em. The house nextdoor on the
other side is this senior, a widow who has lost her
husband and lives alone, and someone comes
and wants to rent that is a sexual offender
that has been convicted and has served their time, I have to be careful
who I put in that home. Because if we put
someone in that home and something happens to
either of those neighbors, they’re coming right at me. They’re not coming to the city. – That’s a concern, so–
(audience applauding) how do you address that concern? – I’ll just be very honest, and I guess I’m the
lawyer of the panel. I mean, that’s just not
an accurate description of the ordinance. (audience applauding) That’s just, no, it’s
just not what it says. I mean, anyone, go pull it
up, it’s online right now. And it says, in essence that
you can actually still review, either criminal history,
rental history within it. This has been one of the most, one of the biggest distortions
in the entire conversation. And I understand
how we get to this because in American
politics we wanna be like this is a big evil, red
tape bureaucracy thing. And maybe on the other side we
wanna say landlords are bad. No, this is actually a good
compromised piece of legislation where we’ve said,
look, we want to, yes, codify the rights that
exist so people know what’s up. And I don’t know how
that’s new red tape at all. And in the other
hand say that, no, you can’t basically use
a box to exclude people, but you can still review it. Nick, it’s exactly the
same as ban the box in Kansas City,
Missouri, employment. You can’t say if
you’ve been arrested that you just can’t have a
job and we’ll throw you out. What you can say is, I could look through
your criminal history and see how it’s
relevant and germane to what you’re doing here. It is not a threatening document that will in any way overthrow landlord rights in Kansas City. (audience applauding)
– Okay, I wanna get, we’re gonna get to you,
Stacey, in a moment, ’cause I know there’s
another side to this, and we’re gonna move
into that in a moment. But let me just tell you, we’re gonna bring
the microphone out, we’re gonna ask you, you
can have your own questions. Please be respectful
of one another, though. Can we ask a question
in less than 30 seconds? I think most of us
can do that, can’t we? Yes we can. If you have a question,
make sure that the question is something that other
people may be interested in and it’s not just your
own personal circumstance? Can we do that
ladies and gentlemen? And we’ll get to more of them. We’ve talked about the Bill
of Rights the tenants have. Landlords themselves,
now calling themselves
home providers because they don’t like the
way they’ve been demonized, have come up with their own Bill of Rights and
responsibilities. You may not have
read all of them. I’m just going to give you a
quick taste of some of those, and we’ll discuss them. The landlords now known
as home providers, are not going around in
their own colored T-shirts, though you might wanna
do that after this event. – No thank you. (laughing)
– One of the things I was, when I poured
through the document, the city should
support the creation of a tenant housing
provider university that offers tenant
education and financial literacy training,
– We have, we did. – Basic home safety and
maintenance techniques, eviction prevention, and
home buyer education. Is that something everyone
on this panel can support? – Absolutely.
– It’s totally condescending. Why should I have
to do maintenance on a property I’m renting? – [Stacey] That’s not the
point, that’s not the point. – Why should I have to
learn to do maintenance on a property that
does not belong to me? That is your job. They’re passing the buck. Which is what they’re continuing
to do, they’ve been doing. And even to speak
to them feeling like
things are not fair. They’ve been winning. How are things not
fair on your side? – You don’t win when you
have thousands of dollars due to you because of past tenants
who can’t pay their rent. And so you don’t win
in that situation. We’re not in a
position of winning. And what we need to do in this
landlord tenant university, what it does for a
tenant is it says in the maintenance they’re
talking about things like how to change your furnace
filter if that’s in your lease. How to change a light bulb. And believe it or not,
we’ve had tenants, my husband is
sitting here tonight, we’ve had tenants call him to
come and change a light bulb. And so things like that, what does it take to be a
good responsible tenant? Taking care of your own property and not being at the
whim of someone else. And something that’s
really important to me, I want, all these yellow shirts, if they wanna own homes, I want you to have a
piece of the American pie and help build wealth and legacy
to pass on to your family. You don’t always
have to be a tenant if you don’t want to be. – Lets hear from some of the
people in the yellow shirts who happen to be
at the microphone. We have others, too. I’ve got my own questions. But let’s hear from you
first of all, madam. Your question, your
pithy, insightful question for our panel.
– Pithy, insightful, yeah. So, I think we’ve heard
that a common enemy is the out-of-town
corporate landlord, so I’d like to ask you
on the landlord side, what would you do to bring
those landlords under control? What ideas do you have? – I think the common
enemy is the slumlord. The city knows who they are. They don’t have
the will to enforce the ordinances against them. – You don’t have
the will to enforce the ordinances already on the– – We want them out of business, we want them out of our city. – Well, here’s the thing. This is actually what KC
Tenants and landlords, see everybody’s
saying we don’t agree. Everybody agrees.
– We agree on a lot of stuff. – The reason there’s an
office of tenant advocate is so that you actually do have
a city enforcement resource. That’s what this is about.
(audience applauding) – But, but–
– No, it’s doing what you want. It’s actually saying
we don’t do it well, let’s improve it. What’s wrong with that? – What is the endgame? What’s the remedy
for the bad landlord? We know that there are
hundreds, couple hundred, repeat offenders in this market. They know who they are. Your law department
will tell you, they won’t deny, this
isn’t a priority. So they don’t go after ’em. At the end of the day
the city may wind up with a derelict property,
which you don’t want. You don’t wanna be the landlord. Nor do you wanna be responsible
for relocating families out of derelict properties,
and that’s just a fact. – Everything you all just
said is what’s being proposed. It’s let’s create
(audience applauding) an enforcement opportunity. Let’s address the slumlords. I don’t know what
we’re fighting about. We actually all agree. This is rare in America.
– I don’t think they do, though, Mayor.
– But, but, but, what I say is that
already exists. Tenants today can call
the health department, make a complaint. If the landlord doesn’t comply,
put ’em out of business. And if the person is
discriminating against you, there is a human
relations department with a civil rights division. So if you’ve been
discriminated against you can make the
complaint today. We don’t need to
wait until June. – So we’re saying it’s
– It exists. – Under-resourced, so let us create an office that can do it.
– No, no, no, no, and I’m saying that
it exists today. We don’t have the will,
our health department, our human relations
department, or whatever it is that may not have the
will to enforce it. We know who the bad actors are. The laws are in place
today that could put them out of business in this city. However they have not done that because they don’t
have the will to. Like Sam said, if they put
someone out of a property, now that property sits empty, and where will that family go. – Okay, Tara. – I’m encouraged. We have a new mayor. I think he has the will, and I think the current
City Council has the will, and I will repeat, that the
big difference between now and two years ago is we have
an accountability mechanism on the outside in town
that will make sure that the bad actors
are held accountable. I will tell you right now that
we’ve been running a campaign against TEH Realty for a little
bit less than six months, and just last week
the Housing Authority ended all future contracts
with that slumlord company, and–
(audience applauding) – So change is happening. – And–
– Let me listen to this, I wanna listen to
you madam, your question. – So this is really
disappointing because I thought I was
coming to learn more about what Kansas City is
doing about the fact that Affordable Housing
is not available. And you’ve spent all
your time arguing over tenants versus landlords. My question is, we have a lot of vacant property in this city. We’re at risk, to
someone’s point. People want to invest
in Kansas City, but most investors want
a very large return. How do we make sure
that those investors are building affordable housing? Not 200, $300,000 houses
that people can’t live in. (audience cheering)
– Thank you very much, madam. And for being so crisp. Stacey and then the mayor. – So I think we need to
create an environment where we create more people
like me and landlords or housing providers
like me that may own five, 10, 20 properties. And so we need to make
sure that we don’t have too many regulations in
place that will scare us off. Like Sam said earlier,
investment goes
where it’s wanted. So we want an environment
that’s welcoming to us, which means that the city
can do a lot of things with some zoning ordinances, and they can incentivize
us and they can use also– – Okay, let me say, that is
actually in your Bill of Rights and responsibilities,
to establish incentives to encourage affordable
housing production. Is that not happening
now Mayor Lucas? – I chair a housing
committee where we actually talk about
this stuff all the time. And I encourage you
all to care about kind of the three prongs of
housing that are important. Quality of housing, which is really what’s
being debated today and what guarantees exist, but also creation of more units. There are several ways
we create more units. Some of that is stimulating
the private market, really in single family homes. Getting people to rehab. We’re trying to shift
more funds into that. You might have
heard me talk about a $75 million housing trust fund that we’re trying to
identify enough funds for to support the
creation of more housing. And frankly, I think we need
to make sure we do address abandoned houses and
the vacancies issue. But here’s the
thing, just because we talk about
housing quality today doesn’t mean we don’t care
about housing creation. It doesn’t mean we don’t
care about abandoned housing. And I think, frankly, they
are all important parts of it. Me saying that I want
a tenant to have rights doesn’t mean that
I’m also not saying I wanna see a thousand more
single family homes repaired in east or south Kansas City. I think we can do both. – And that’s what I
actually heard from people who called me at the
station, the KCPT, and said, Tara, oh this
Bill of Rights, great. How does that in
any way increase any units of affordable
housing in Kansas City? – Well I think you can’t have
a conversation about supply without also having a
conversation about quality and actual safety and
dignity within the unit. I don’t want an
affordable housing unit, as Tiana said, that’s
filled with black mold. So when we do the first
step of protecting tenants in the homes that
exist currently, that opens up the
possibility for us to explore the second step. And if you think KC
Tenants has fallen asleep, you’ve got another thing comin’. ‘Cause the next thing–
(audience cheering) The next thing that
we wanna work on is increasing supply of units. And I actually have a
lot of ideas about this, and I know a lot of my friends in the audience do, too.
– Okay, can you give us one? – Sure, so I think the
mayor needs to fully fund this affordable
housing trust fund. And then that money needs to
go to local community builders, community owners, people who are going to control
their own properties, and that money needs to
come with restrictions that are restrictions around
what the rents can be, how much they can be increased, and what the quality of those
units must be in perpetuity. – This affordable housing
trust fund, though, that’s been talked
about a long time, and they haven’t funded it. Where does that money come from, Mayor Lucas?
– Well, you know, it’s amazing because we talk
about will of things, and this is one area I agree. We’ve identified roughly
$42 million of the funds. Tara before did mention a
$36 million parking garage that we’re helping construct. I mean if you’re asking
where the money goes, that money goes to lots of other economic development
priorities we have each day. So because this is all about
agreement and coming together, I would hope KC Tenants,
housing providers, and everybody says let’s fund more money for housing creation, let’s lobby City Council
and so many others to make sure that
we’re doing creation, we’re doing rehab, we’re
supporting providers and tenants to make sure we’re
creating more housing in Kansas City.
– Stacey. – And so I agree with that
and I agree with the lady. I’d rather spend our
time tonight talking and using all of this
time to talk about what we need to do to
create affordable housing from the people, in particular,
who create that housing. Let’s get us in a room
talking about housing. And one thing that
I’m concerned about, Tara mentioned that she has
some plans in the future, and what the plans
are happen to be in their National
Homes Guarantee, where it’s the People’s Action. The ultimate goal of
that organization, it’s an overarching
national group, it’s not just the local
grassroots organization, their goal is to have 12
million public housing units in this country, and, and so to that I say,
(audience applauding) I’m sure you’d clap, but you
may not remember Wayne Miner. You may not remember
Projects in Chicago. And so my point is that
I’d rather incentivize the private market
to use our money instead of government money
producing government housing. – Here’s a little
history lesson. Public housing in this
country was first constructed during the New Deal
and it mostly served white working class people. And it was a dignified
amazing place to live and raise a family. And then our government
subsidized the mortgages of those same white
families to move out to the suburbs and buy homes, therefore concretizing
white wealth in this country forevermore. At the same time–
(audience applauding) public housing, public housing then became a
place where black and brown, poor and working
class people lived. And then, not coincidentally,
we saw public housing completely disinvested from. And that is to blame
for its failure, not its tenants or
its construction. (audience cheering) – [Nick] More to come
from the Plaza Library in just a moment on this
hour-long KCTP Housing Special. But first, did you know Ken
Burns has picked public housing for his latest film? Coming up in March, Burns
takes you to the birthplace of America’s first public
housing development and the first city to tear
it down, Atlanta, Georgia. – [Reporter] Robbery,
prostitution, killing. – [Reporter] Poverty, the
shootings, the drug abuse. – [Woman] Pow, pow, pow. It was just like you was
in a movie, Western movie. – [Woman] I would never go
into East Lake Meadows alone. It was completely
dysfunctional community. – [Woman] You hear the gunshots
going off all the time. All you can do is
grab your kids up. – It was just this chaos. It was called Little Vietnam
by the police for good reason and was just viewed
as irredeemable. It was just a place that
was beyond the capacity that anybody could imagine
things being different. – We’re not mature
enough as a society, I think, to look in
the mirror and see how we manufactured
American poverty, how we manufactured
housing that was meant to seclude these poor people, and how we turned a
blind eye to creating, to creating a middle
class while simultaneously excluding people from it. – [Nick] Ken Burns presents
“East Lake Meadows, “A Public Housing Story”
coming March 24th to KCPT. Meanwhile, Thursday we crack
open our local history books to tackle Kansas
City’s troubled past with race and real estate. – That was the main
mindset of that day, that races did not intertwine. – It was codified. It was written into the deed
of this homeowners association. If I lived in this neighborhood we could not sell to
African American families. – So those covenants
were strictly enforced. It was almost like you
had to sign a contract if you purchased a house within
an area that had covenants, some of the people
who signed off on it, they’re streets now named after
(voice drowned out by music) – (voice drowned out by
music) that is exactly what they felt in their
heart that they would write it down and
sign a covenant. And when I think of covenants, I think of it on
the spiritual end, something that you
truly in your heart, mind, and soul agree
to, which would not, in my wildest mind,
be to bar black folks from living in a home that you used to own
or you helped build. (voice drowned out by music) – Madam, we’re ready for you. – Okay, now I’ve heard a lot
of conversation going on here, but not one person talked
about the realistic of the situation of
Kansas City, Missouri. We have not gotten our
tax bills in control here of people who own houses. So how are we as landlords
are able to modernize, make affordable housing, when our taxes are about
to go up on our property? So if my taxes go up two or $300 that means I cannot
do affordable housing. But that is a major, major issue.
– That is a major issue. Let me tell you, that
is what we heard about from our viewers, too. Stacey Johnson-Cosby, you’re
on the Board of Equalization. Some landlords claimed they
would quit the business because they couldn’t pass
on tax increases to tenants. Is that happening? – Well it hasn’t happened yet. But I’m not just worried
about the landlords, or the housing providers
who get those bills, because many of them have
mortgages on those homes. Some people who are used
to paying maybe $500 a year for their taxes are getting
bills that are 1,000 and $1500. How are they going to pay it? They cannot. And I’m talkin’ about people
who live in those homes. This may be the
only home they have and where all of their family
wealth and legacy is tied up. They’re going to be
in a lot of trouble. – Tara, are you worried, though, about what this will
mean for renters because landlords will
just put that fee on them and charge more in rent? – We are worried, and I
wanna tell you a story because we had property
owners come to us, actually months ago
before this whole Bill of Rights debacle. Property owners who came to
us and asked us, KC Tenants, will you have our backs
and write a letter to the Board of
Equalization that says that this assessment
was botched? We voted to write that letter. And we wrote that letter, we sent it to the
Board of Equalization. There’s a lot of agreement. We don’t think that
the county’s assessment was a fair process. – There’s lots of other
components to this whole thing. Greg wants to know what
about Missouri Governor, Mike Parson’s promise
push to restore low income housing tax credits, which were snuffed out by his
predecessor, Eric Greitens. What difference does that
really make, Quinton Lucas? – I mean, it’s a
shame the person who asked the question
is gone because it speaks to the creation issue. How do we create more units? Through the low income
housing tax credit we have seen a great
amount of creation for rental units
of different types throughout our city,
throughout our region. And so frankly, I strongly
encourage the governor to bring back that program. The state legislature
took steps to it before. That continues to be a core
part of Kansas City’s policy in Jefferson City. – [Nick] Sam. – And I’m gonna
support that comment because if you look
at the renovation, the revitalization of the core, closer to downtown,
over the last 20 years, very little of what
you see there now, particularly with regards
to the housing conversions wouldn’t have been possible but
for that housing tax credit. – Sam wants to know what is the, what about the biggest
new tool being touted as the salvation of
struggling neighborhoods? Opportunity Zones, in exchange for investing
in challenging areas, investors can cut or
even eliminate completely their capital gains
taxes thanks to Uncle Sam by putting their
money in those areas that haven’t been invested in. Does that do anything,
in your judgment, to expand the supply of low
income and affordable housing in Kansas City? Stacey. – I think it can, but we
need to educate investors of what it is and what
the possibilities are. It’s yet another
tool, another resource that I can use my
private dollars on my own without depending on
government dollars that I can be incentivized
to create more housing in areas where it’s needed. So we need to make
sure other investors are aware that that’s a tool
where you can get financing for the project
that you wanna do, and neighborhoods would still have the opportunity
to weigh in. Many neighborhoods thought that they’d be closed
out of that process. Through our normal planning
and development process they would still have the
opportunity to weigh in to either support
the project or not, but why not work together to get housing in your neighborhood, working with the
developer side by side. – Tara, are you as
enthused and excited? – I’m not, for those in
the audience who don’t know what the Opportunity
Zones Program is, it’s a Trump
Administration program that basically
provides tax shelters for out-of-state investors
to do their business. (audience applauding) And, there’s a great report that
I just wanna shout out, an organization called
Sage, based in California, just did a report on the details of how the program functions, and found that most of the time the program is gonna
function in a way that dis-incentivizes the
investor from actually investing in what the community
needs because they need to make a profit on
their investment. And actually, I think it’ll
lead to a lot of displacement from our communities. And Rashida Tlaib is
introducing a bill to repeal Opportunity
Zones on Friday. (audience applauding)
– What is your view on that? Are people approaching you
already about this, Mayor Lucas? – Yeah, people are
always approaching us about Opportunity Zones. I take both points. I think they can be a positive
opportunity for the city. I think we do need to, from
the city’s side of things, try to stimulate
investment in areas that we actually
are wanting it in. So, to Tara’s point,
we don’t wanna just say to random builder in
inner city neighborhood, let’s just build some sort
of check cashing institution. That’s just a theoretical. Instead what we wanna
actually make sure we’re doing is saying what’s the
development we need? How can it be
stimulated through this? And we should have
a role within it. – [Nick] Still confused
about Opportunity Zones? Never even heard
the phrase before. Well, you’re gonna be hearing
a whole lot about them in this new year. If you’re scratching your head, we’ve taken all the hard
work out of it for you. Fasten your seatbelt. This is Opportunity Zones 101. (light music) Madam, you’ve been very patient, we’re ready for your question. – Awesome. Hi, Stacey, so first of
all I wanna point out that you said us in
the yellow shirts, if we wanted a piece
of the American pie we would be welcome to it. I’m guessing we’re
talking about home buying. Well, my American pie
is actually a degree. I will probably
always be a renter and I’m perfectly
happy with that. But with my question–
– I said if you wanted to. – Yeah, I’m just letting you
know, there are other ones, and that’s just not mine.
– I understand that. – So it is clear that
Kansas City housing policy is not currently representative
of Kansas Citians. Historically renters do
not have the same access to decision makers as
landlords and property owners, and it shows. How do you believe housing
policies should be created? And that’s for everyone. – [Nick] Stacey. – With both, both sides. We need the housing providers
and the tenants together sitting down with policymakers. And I’d like to make
just a quick correction on Opportunity Zones. That’s something that Cory
Booker and Tim Scott introduced under the Obama Administration. It was signed into law during
the Trump Administration. So that’s something that
had bipartisan support. – Is there an office within
a Kansas City government where tenants can
reach out about discrimination or
landlord abuse? – Yes, the Human Relations
Department Civil Right Division. So if you have a complaint, if you’ve been
discriminated against, I strongly encourage
you to reach them. You can do that today. You don’t need an Office
of Tenant Advocate. That exists already. And if you have any issues
with their health department in the property you live in you
go to the health department. – I would ask Stacey to
go to those departments and find out how long
the waiting lists are. (audience applauding) – [Nick] What was
your experience then? What is the wait? – I actually had Healthy
Homes comes to my home and say that it
was uninhabitable. But then what do
I do after that? They did nothing else. This person was allowed
to sell that home without disclosing
what was wrong with it. They get away with
all kinds of things. – If, as a real estate agent, I they tried to sell the
home without disclosing that, they’re violating the law–
– They did sell the home. I spoke to the new owners. – I understand but they
had to disclose any defects with the property. – No they did not.
– If not, then they set themselves up for a lawsuit. – [Nick] We’re ready for you. – I want to direct this
question directly to you, Sam. In a meeting approximately
three to four weeks ago you categorized the east side
of Kansas City as Baghdad. And when we began
talking about investment, how do you then, how do we
then expect you to be honest and to trust you in bringing real investment
to the east side? (audience applauding)
– Let’s listen to Sam. – Hold on, hold on, hold on. (voices muffled) – Let me start, let me start. I’ll just say this, and I wasn’t in the meeting with Badlands. I’ve known Sam for
probably five years. He has, we have different
views sometimes. He’s been a decent man
to me, to work with, so I’ll say for him right now,
I wasn’t there for Badlands, and this isn’t actually really
relevant to our conversation. – I recall alluding to Baghdad
the day after, were my words, as alluding to the
worst situations, and we were talking about
situations all over the country, not just Kansas… I did not, I did not refer
to the east side as Baghdad. I want to make sure
that’s on the record. – Okay, asked and answered. Thank you sir, for
asking the question. More of your questions
in just a moment on this KCPT Housing Special. But if you struggle
with a housing issue, right now, what do you do? – I was in a car accident
on September 25th, so I haven’t paid
November or December, and they’re going to evict me, or at least they’re
threatening to evict me. – In a week there is no way
that I’m gonna come up with, they say a whole $2,000. – I don’t want no
eviction on my record, so hopefully that they
can take that off. – The Tenants Bill of Rights does not go into
effect until June. Stay with us right
after the show as we present the five biggest
tips to help protect you now. And at the bottom of the
screen here are some numbers you can call for
free legal help, housing options, and
trustworthy advice. Madam, we’ll go to you and
then I’m gonna wrap up, I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen. But we’re ready for you. – I’ve heard tenant a lot. I’ve heard landlord a lot. What I haven’t
heard is taxpayer. You said, Tara, that
the mayor needs to fund, but who funds the
mayor is taxpayers. I’m an owner occupant. I’m neither a
landlord or a tenant. But I am currently buried under other people’s garbage
on the east side, even though there’s an ordinance
against illegal dumping. And I currently
have other issues that come from the city
not enforcing ordinance. Why will this one be different? How do I know it
will be enforced? (audience applauding)
– Mayor Lucas. Thank you very much. – You know, I think, that’s
a very important point. I will actually take this hit. The Human Relations Department
that Stacey referenced before has a lot of stuff
and we don’t have enough staff for enforcement. Neighborhoods, a lot of
our code enforcement, does not have
sufficient staff for it. Frankly, a number of the
areas are, in many ways, grossly underfunded,
grossly under-resourced, and grossly understaffed. And so what I believe
the policy goal right now with this and frankly
should be with everything, and this is what our
new council and mayor have been more
about is don’t just pass things for the heck of it, pass things where
there is actually funding connected with it. There’s adequate
staffing to support it so we’re not just saying
let’s ban all illegal dumping. What we’re instead saying
is let’s actually make sure that there are staff
who can go out there, catch offenders, and
actually bring them to some level of
prosecution and make sure there’s consistent enforcement. – And we’re all
in this together. Thank you Tara Raghuveer,
Tiana Caldwell. Thank you to Mayor
Quinton Lucas, to Stacey Johnson-Cosby,
and Sam Alpert. Thank you. And thank you to our
sixth panelist, you, right here at the Plaza
Library in Kansas City. And at home watching this, thank you all very much. And good night. – [Narrator] Support for
this program comes from the Kauffman Foundation, AAARP Kansas City, and from the annual financial
support of viewers like you. Thank you. (upbeat music) – My name is Gina Chiala. I’m an attorney with
The Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, and today we’re gonna talk
about five things you can do to protect your
rights as a tenant. Tip number one,
get it in writing. If you go look at
a place to rent and the landlord tells
you, “Don’t worry, “this place is gonna
be all fixed up “by the time you move in” just make sure you
get that in writing. Just grab a piece of paper,
write down all of the things that the landlord should fix,
have the landlord sign it, you sign it, also
include the date that the repairs
should be done by, and keep a copy for yourself. If the landlord is reluctant
to sign that piece of paper, proceed with caution. If it were me I
wouldn’t sign the lease and I wouldn’t move in. Tip number two, once
you move into your home, make sure that you make
requests for repairs in writing and keep a copy. You have a right to safe
and livable housing. So in the winter
there should be heat and in the summer there
should be ventilation. The plumbing should work,
the electrical should work, and there shouldn’t be
infestations of rodents or bugs. So if your home
doesn’t pass the test, make a request for
repairs in writing. You can send it by email and
keep a copy of your sent email or send a letter by
certified letter, return receipt requested. And if the landlord fails
to make those repairs in a reasonable amount of time get legal help before
the situation escalates. Tip number three,
know what a landlord can do and can’t
do under the law. A landlord can’t force
you out of your house without a judgment
from the court. So that means before a
landlord can force you out, the landlord has to go to court, serve you with a
lawsuit, win the case, and get a judgment
from the court. And even then, only
the sheriff can physically remove you and
your belongings from the home. And that doesn’t happen
until 10 days or more after your landlord
wins the case. So that means a landlord
can’t change the locks without a court order. The landlord can’t
disconnect your utilities without a court order, and your landlord can’t
take your belongings and throw them out without
permission from the court. If this is happening to
you, seek legal assistance. Tip number four, don’t
ignore eviction lawsuits. If you come home and you find an eviction lawsuit on your door or someone comes
and hands a lawsuit to someone in your
household, don’t ignore it. You may be able to prevent
a judgment from happening by negotiating
with your landlord, catching up with the rent,
or asserting a legal defense. But if you ignore the lawsuit
then you will lose the suit and a judgment for eviction
will be issued against you. And having that on your
record is not good. It may make it
impossible for you to rent again in the future. So if you get sued, get
legal assistance right away. Tip number five, get your deposit back. In Missouri a landlord has 30
days to return your deposit to your last known address. So you want to make sure
that the landlord knows where to send that deposit. Or you can have your mail
forwarded to a new address. A landlord in Missouri has
to follow two procedures before he or she can
withhold your deposit. First of all, a landlord has to give you notice of walkthrough. Second of all, a
landlord has to give you an accurate accounting
explaining why all or part of your
deposit was withheld. If a landlord fails to do
either of these things, you may be entitled
to double the amount that was wrongfully
withheld back. So get legal assistance
if you’re having trouble getting your deposit back. The Heartland Center
for Jobs and Freedom provides free legal
help to low wage workers in the areas of
landlord tenant law, consumer law, and
employment law. If you need help,
call 816-278-1344. And if you have a housing issue and you’re permanently
unemployed or disabled, contact Legal Aid
at 816-474-6750. (intense music)


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