Editorials

‘Bold ideas’ for housing and neighborhoods a road map for progress on KC’s East Side

The Central City sales tax committee has recommended spending $2.4 million on the Linwood Shopping Square at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue.
The Central City sales tax committee has recommended spending $2.4 million on the Linwood Shopping Square at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue. The Star

Kansas City’s slow but essential march to rebuilding the East Side continues. Three recent developments suggest progress in some of the area’s poorest neighborhoods.

The committee overseeing the one-eighth-cent Central City sales tax has finally issued a set of initial recommendations. The committee wants to spend $6.1 million on seven East Side projects in the first year of the tax. The City Council has the final say.

One of the recommendations — $2.4 million for the Linwood Shopping Square at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue — should undergo a thorough review. The Linwood complex has received other public subsidies over the years, and council members will want to make sure it deserves yet another bite of the apple.

The other projects on the list are more promising. More than $1.7 million would be spent on two child care centers, a key need on the East Side. Another $1.35 million would go to housing projects, including new construction and rehabilitation efforts.

Quality affordable housing remains one of Kansas City’s most important needs. The Central City tax is just one component of a broader strategy to tackle that objective.

On Saturday, residents will get a chance to comment on a draft five-year Kansas City housing policy statement. It was issued after a summer of discussion with neighborhood leaders and others.

No five-year plan lasts five years without changes. Housing policy is particularly rubbery; planners and city officials must adjust to changing needs, consumer preferences, even economic and political pressures.

But the draft is a good place to start. It proposes five “bold ideas”:

Creating or preserving 5,000 housing units during the next five years

Creating a $75 million fund for housing construction and rehabilitation

Adjusting regulations and incentives to encourage home construction

Targeting four neighborhoods for “holistic” housing improvements

Creating a tenant-landlord “university” to improve relationships for renters

All five approaches are welcome. Some appear more doable than others, but the discussion has the right focus, which is improving neighborhoods house by house, block by block.

That’s why it’s also encouraging that the City Council Thursday approved a broad East Side improvement plan, offered by Councilman Scott Taylor. The proposal has a housing component, but also addresses economic development through tax credits and subsidies.

Funding all these initiatives will take time and commitment. The list of needs on the East Side is lengthy, and has been long delayed.

Combined, though, they could bring jobs, investment, and quality housing to communities that need them. Progress for the poorest neighborhoods now seems more possible than it has in decades.

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