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Kansas City tenant advocates call on mayoral hopefuls

Kansas City tenant advocates call on mayoral hopefuls

March 11th, 2019 by Associated Press in Local News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City tenant advocacy group is putting pressure on mayoral candidates to address the city's affordable housing crisis.

The newly formed KC Tenants released its housing policy platform and demanded a response from the 11 candidates running for mayor, the Kansas City Star reported. The platform asks candidates to refuse donations from real estate developers and industry executives and calls for more opportunities for tenants to scrub evictions from their records.

The group is also pushing for an emergency fund to help tenants who fall behind on rent and a "ban the box" policy to bar landlords from asking prospective tenants about their criminal history.

Tiana Caldwell, one of the group's leaders, applauded City Council members for their plan to spend $75 million to fund affordable housing, but she said more must be done to meet tenants' needs in the future.

"If we don't make a massive public investment in housing, people like me won't be able to live here anymore," Caldwell said. "More and more people will fall into homelessness, and more kids will be impacted by this and carry the scars with them forever."

Caldwell and her husband, Derrick Caldwell, both work, but their family is homeless after being evicted from their home last spring. Tiana Caldwell said they fell behind on their rent payments after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time. The Caldwells have been struggling to find a new place to live, paying up to $500 per week to live in a hotel.

Group leaders like Caldwell aren't only pushing for affordability, but also more oversight of landlords to prevent abuses.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Quinton Lucas, who chairs the city's Housing Committee, said he supports more protections for tenants and would be open to discussing a ban on developer money in municipal elections.

Candidate Phil Glynn said the goal is to make sure residents don't pay more than one-third of their income on rent.

"We need to build a housing strategy around that, and no matter what, it's going to take massive private investment," Glynn said.