Kansas City will use a new, $30 million federal grant to do much more than just move 500 people out of an antiquated public housing project.
As U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced the highly coveted grant Monday, he said the Kansas City Housing Authority and its partners won the award because of their comprehensive plan to lift people out of poverty.
“This is community revitalization the way it should be done,” Castro said of the Paseo Gateway plan, which will improve housing, public safety and transit, social and health services, educational offerings, job training and business development for the Northeast neighborhood from Interstate 35 to Chestnut Trafficway and from Cliff Drive to Ninth Street.
Castro described the area as “the Ellis Island of Kansas City,” for its incredibly diverse population, including immigrants from all over the world.
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He praised a key part of the plan — to move residents of the obsolete Chouteau Courts low-income housing project, just west of Independence Avenue and the Paseo, into new or revitalized mixed-income housing units over the next five years.
But those residents and other neighbors will also have case managers and other services to change their lives.
“The real work is just starting,” he said. “Let’s get the job done.”
The grant culminates more than four years of planning by the Kansas City Housing Authority and city government.
It involved numerous partners, including United Way; Brinshore Development of Chicago, one of the nation’s top public housing master developers; the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences; Kansas City public schools; Greater Kansas City LISC, a community development organization; and Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, where the grant announcement was made.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what’s been accomplished here,” Mayor Sly James said at the announcement ceremony. “This is a huge deal for Kansas City.”
Out of 33 applicants for the grants, five communities were chosen. The others were Atlanta, Milwaukee, Memphis and Sacramento.
Housing Authority executive director Edwin Lowndes said this is the second-largest grant ever received by the Housing Authority, behind only the $47 million grant in 1993 to redo Guinotte Manor. Lowndes said Chouteau Courts, built in 1958, is now the oldest development that the Housing Authority needs to transform.
Residents will be moved out over time from the 20 buildings that make up the Chouteau Courts development. Lowndes said the agency will work closely with residents and surrounding neighborhoods to make the transition smooth and to address concerns that may arise.
The first residents could be moved about a year from now, but the schedule is uncertain. Housing Authority officials said it depends on how quickly replacement units come on line.
Chouteau Courts tenant representative Sebra Scrogum was on hand for Monday’s announcement and said the transition can’t occur fast enough for the residents. She said they’re eager to move, and the grant will be a huge help.
“It will mean a lot to everyone at Chouteau,” she said.
Out of the $30 million, about $21 million is for new and refurbished housing units. That spending is intended to leverage more private investment in market-rate housing, to create a more mixed-income community.
The other $9 million is split between community infrastructure improvements that the city will oversee and supportive services for Chouteau Court residents and other low-income families.
Jim MacDonald, senior vice president for community investment with United Way of Greater Kansas City, said his agency will help administer the supportive services. Case managers will help residents get job training and stabilize their finances, help families find the best educational opportunities for their children and assist with managing health care issues.
He said this builds on initiatives that United Way was already doing but will “focus this in a strategic way” to bolster a specific set of neighborhoods.
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