KC mayor and others are upset about Missouri’s plan to land Boeing plant

Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who initially supported a deal to try to bring Boeing manufacturing jobs to St. Louis, now says he is none too happy about the way the deal was reached.

In fact, James said Wednesday that it could jeopardize three important low-income housing projects in Kansas City, including an expansion of the St. Michael’s Veterans Center for homeless vets.

“When I agreed to support the St. Louis effort,” James wrote Wednesday in a

post on his website

, “there was no discussion or consultation about using or bartering Low Income Housing Tax Credits to finance the Boeing deal.”

That’s why, the mayor said, he was upset to learn that the low-income tax program was used to leverage support for the Boeing incentives. He said that calls into question the tax credits needed for three housing projects:

• The expansion of the St. Michael’s Veterans Center, which currently has 58 units under construction near 39th Street and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, just southeast of the VA Medical Center. The developer was seeking tax credits to provide 59 additional units of affordable housing.

• The Ivanhoe Gateway project, which would provide 12 units of housing to jump-start a larger neighborhood transformation at 39th and Euclid, on the former site of the Horace Mann School, which burned and had to be demolished.

• The Rose Hill Townhomes near Ninth Street and Troost Avenue, which would provide 33 transitional units for homeless people.

The mayor and others became concerned because last Friday the state housing commission voted to delay approval of millions of dollars in tax credits for these and other proposed low-income housing projects throughout the state. The action came just hours after lawmakers gave final approval to a $1.7 billion incentive package aimed at persuading Boeing to build its new jetliner in St. Louis.

While technically unrelated, the Missouri Housing Development Commission vote came at the request of Gov. Jay Nixon, who struck a deal with a group of conservative state senators to ensure passage of the Boeing incentives.

Whether the Boeing project ultimately lands in St. Louis or not — and most observers believe Missouri remains a long shot — the resolution passed Friday by the housing commission delays any vote on the tax credits until at least March 13.

That would put the next tax credit vote at the midpoint of the 2014 legislative session.

Boeing is expected to announce its decision sometime in the next two months.

Mayoral spokeswoman Joni Wickham said the mayor’s office has conveyed James’ dismay and concerns to the governor’s office over the housing commission delay.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a member of the housing commission, told The Associated Press that Nixon’s chief of staff spoke at Friday’s meeting and asked for the delay to fulfill an agreement the governor made with the senators.

The deal was immediately criticized by the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, who in a letter to Nixon said there was no need to cut low-income tax credits to pay for Boeing’s incentive package.

They also objected to the fact that negotiations took place behind their backs, leaving the governor’s fellow Democrats to find out the details from media reports.

The governor’s “actions were deceitful and insulting,” said Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat. “There’s no way I would have supported the Boeing deal in exchange for cutting low-income housing tax credits.”

Nixon’s spokeswoman, Channing Ansley, said in a statement that the governor has “always been supportive of providing affordable housing to low-income Missourians while working to ensure all state government programs provide strong returns for our economy and our communities.”

Ansley added that the housing commission approved a motion to adopt the commission’s low-income housing project list. The only thing it delayed until March, she said, was authorizing the individual projects.

Lawmakers, especially conservatives in the Senate, have been trying unsuccessfully for several years to rein in the amount of tax credits awarded to developers of low-income housing and historic redevelopment. Those two programs comprised about $223 million of the $513 million in Missouri tax credits redeemed in the 2013 fiscal year, according to state data.

Nixon has also publicly pushed for tax credit reform.

But each time the General Assembly tries to tackle the issue, differences between Senate and House leaders sink the effort. In 2011, a special session called specifically to tackle tax credits collapsed after seven weeks of back-and-forth negotiations.

Wickham said the mayor’s office plans to have further discussions with the governor’s office to try to resolve Kansas City’s low-income housing concerns.