New KC affordable housing project sets aside units for young adults with HIV, AIDS

The news in 2002 shook Wanda Washington: She learned that year that she had HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS.

“I kept drinking and drugging and fighting everyone who tried to help me,” Washington said.

The Kansas City woman is now sober and working, having three years ago found supportive living through SAVE Inc., a local nonprofit that provides housing for people with HIV or AIDS.

SAVE and Springfield, Missouri-based developer Vecino Group on Thursday broke ground on a new $8 million, 50-unit apartment project on what’s currently a dusty parking lot at 31st and Harrison streets in Midtown. The project, called Alhaven, will provide both affordable housing as well as units for young adults with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis.

Alhaven is expected to open by the end of 2020, officials said.

Blaine Proctor, chief executive with SAVE, said that while HIV infection rates overall have gone down in the United States, young adults from the ages of 18 to 25 who have received a diagnosis are the most likely to fall out of treatment.

Of the 50 apartments, 38 are designated affordable, meaning renters who make 60% of the county median income qualify to live there. Expanding affordable housing has been a goal with few easy solutions in Kansas City, where luxury apartments have sprung up in downtown and the suburbs but lower-cost units have been harder to come by.

The remaining 12 units at Alhaven are for young adults with an AIDS or HIV diagnosis. The building will have an onsite specialty pharmacy and other support services. Residents in those 12 units can get a U.S. Housing and Urban Development voucher, which would mean residents are responsible for paying 30% of the rent while the voucher covers the rest.

The project is being financed in part through a federal low-income housing tax credit program. Proctor said the idea for Alhaven started three years ago, but that developers had to go back to the drawing board when former Gov. Eric Greitens de-funded the state’s low income housing tax credit program.

The project is in proximity of Troost Avenue, a corridor long regarded as a racial and socioeconomic dividing line in Kansas City. In more recent years, Troost has seen the development of market rate apartments and new retail amenities.

“There’s another story happening on Troost,” said Kansas City 4th District council member Eric Bunch, referring to the new Operation Breakthrough facility along Troost and Thelma’s Kitchen, a donate-what-you-can cafe concept nearby.

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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has reported in Kansas City since 2005. Areas of reporting interest include business, politics, justice issues and breaking news investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.