Kansas City residents generally applaud the proposal to spend $10 million over the next two years addressing horrible housing blight on the East Side.
But they want as much focus on restoration as on demolition.
That was a theme Saturday as the City Council held a public hearing in preparation for adopting a budget in late March. More than 100 people turned out in a community room at the new East Patrol police station, 2640 Prospect Ave.
“We don’t need to spend $10 million to tear down our neighborhoods,” Jan Johnson, a resident of the historic Santa Fe neighborhood, told the council.
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She said beautiful homes in her neighborhood east of Troost Avenue had already been demolished that should have been saved. She urged the city to spend maybe $2 million on tearing down the most dangerous buildings but also to devote resources to fixing up salvageable housing.
Gregg Lombardi, executive director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, also addressed the council and showed amazing before and after photos of a home in the 3500 block of the Paseo that fell into terrible disrepair while owned by a defunct Colorado investor. A Kansas City rehabber gave it a stunning restoration, with no public subsidy, and it is now occupied.
Lombardi said demolition is “not a one-size-fits-all solution” and estimated 30 percent of abandoned urban core properties could be restored. Many city and philanthropic resources could be used as an alternative to demolition, he said, and he urged the council to explore those approaches.
Other speakers called for Kansas City banks and lending agencies to make more loans available for home renovations and purchases on the East Side.
The proposed 2016-2017 city budget calls for a $10 million bond issue that would allow the demolition of as many as 800 dangerous buildings in the central city. All are in terrible shape, and many are beyond saving. But the city says it is willing to sell them for $1 to people who have the skills and sufficient financial resources to fix them and fill them with owner-occupants. More information about the $1 house program is at www.kcmolandbank.org.
In addition to housing, priorities highlighted at Saturday’s hearing were the perennial complaints about lax code enforcement and illegal dumping. Branden Mims, pastor of the Greater Metropolitan Church of Christ, complained that vacant land the church recently bought at 38th Street and Wabash Avenue had become a dumping ground for all sorts of debris. Someone recently abandoned a 90-foot mobile home that the church had to pay to have removed.
Mims pleaded for surveillance cameras and stepped-up enforcement against illegal dumping.
Others said the city needs a more regular bulky-item pickup schedule, which is one change under consideration in the next budget.
The next community budget hearing is at 10 a.m. next Saturday at Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Road. The City Council will continue to take public comment until a new budget is adopted March 24. The budget will take effect May 1.