Standing outside an abandoned house at 24th Terrace and Garfield Avenue, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver credited his personal success to his father's decision to work three jobs and buy a house.
"I understand home ownership and I understand what it does to the psyche of people who own a piece of earth they can call theirs," said Cleaver, who spent the first six years of his life in a shack without indoor plumbing or electricity.
The NeighborhoodLIFT program will provide homeowner training and $15,000 in down-payment assistant grants to up to 300 families buying houses in Jackson, Clay and Cass counties. People can sign up during launch programs on July 27 and 28 at Bartle Hall.
The program, administered by Westside Housing Organization and run by NeighborWorks America, is funded through a $5.7 million commitment from Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo is working to repair its image after coming under fire for opening accounts without customers permission in 2016.
However, Kirk Kellner, region bank president of Wells Fargo, said this program predated the scandal.
"This is about helping neighborhoods regardless of our 'reestablish' campaign," Kellner said.
The program has come to Kansas City before. In 2014, 269 local families received loans through the program.
The program was announced at a press conference outside an abandoned house, Cleaver said, because it is the type of home he hopes will be bought through the program.
"People would think (a photo of this neighborhood) was anywhere in any suburban community," Cleaver said. "We detract from this great work that the city has been doing with houses like this."
Although NeighborhoodLIFT will not provide new homeowners with funds to rehab the properties, Cleaver said other projects he is working on will.
Cleaver said he has been meeting with Wells Fargo for a year to discuss ways to help with rehabilitation efforts. He plans to use opportunity zones, outlined in the federal tax law, to draw corporations to invest in the project.
Opportunity zones, Cleaver said, will encourage corporations to make 100 percent tax-deductible contributions to revitalization projects in target areas.
"In my summation, this might be one of the most significant economic development components of the legislature since the Civil Rights Act," he said.
Cleaver said, however, that the federal tax law is still generally a negative for U.S. families.
"The tax bill was touted to be the savior of the universe and several galaxies outside of ours," he said. "The average taxpayer, those who voted for the president, will get $25 to $35 a month, and if they're celebrating that while their bosses are celebrating $25 (million) or $30 million, I'm not so sure that tax bill was of any significance to the average American."
He went on to say that the "tariff war" with China probably will erase any benefits from the tax law.