Ken Bacchus, Chief Operating Officer and Development Manager, The Housing & Economic Development Finance Corporation (HEDFC).
“Thank you very much for asking me to be here today, I think I am actually representing the city’s perspective, I was asked by Stan Barrett, the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development to participate in this panel. Thank you for particularly giving some of your war stories, or as we call it, for obtaining ‘scar tissue’. A necessary part of doing community development is at some point in your life, you have been beat up in some regard to get up, shake yourself off, and keep going.
“I think what I’ll do is talk about some of the most important issues facing neighborhoods and the Division of Affordable Housing in Kansas City, and intertwine that work with some of your comments. As a nonacademic, I was also taking notes, and you talked about the neighborhood organizing from the grassroots up, everything through NNC findings, and I was particularly interested in the frictions and the causes for friction, and issues about the feelings about the local neighborhood organizations and the national source of disconnect. The lack of affordable housing, wages, and leadership summit appears to have addressed some of those issues. Then particularly the local views in Kansas City and about reading the information provided by Robyne [Turner].
“I am going to deal with some of the issues of Kansas City housing. One of the issues is the expiring of Section 8 certifications. This is a major issue not only in Kansas City, but throughout the country, and many have already expired with only one year continuations. These are major housing developments built for families, and the way they pay rent is through the Section 8 based vouchers or certificates tied directly to the units. This doesn’t occur much anymore and they are basically walking around with vouchers. Expired Section 8 certificates cause a major loss of affordable housing.
“Another issue is poor property management of affordable housing. New developments get built and then 6-15 years later, through poor property management, the units have gone into major disrepair. This causes a major investment of dollars to repair the units when actually, if the reverses were properly funded and the units were properly managed, these units should stay in proper condition over a longer period of time. Not to say there wouldn’t be a major infusion of dollars in the 15 years, but it shouldn’t be as big of an issue if they properly manage the property.
“The transformation of Section 4 to tax credits projects from the 10-15 requirement of affordable housing. In some markets this would be a problem, but I don’t see this being a huge problem in Kansas City. In some places where there has been some gentrification in neighborhoods where affordable housing was built using the 4-9% tax credits, where the rents have gone up like crazy, maintain those units as affordable will be a challenge. Many places in Kansas City, I don’t expect that to be a problem, however for those who own the tax credits in the 10-15 years may opt to no longer be interested, and the development will revert to the 1% local owner or a nonprofit organization. The question then is how will those units be maintained and remain affordable, and have good housing quality as a result.
“Then, [there is the issue of] the dollars needed to renovate the properties once they have gone through that process. My office dealt with approximately 150 multiple funded loans and development projects that are in our loan portfolio. We see them every day. In the past two weeks we have had to step in and purchase 2 projects that the banks were foreclosing on, that had maybe $200,000-300,000 in, and projects that we have millions of dollars in. We could not afford to loose those public dollars, so we steeped in and purchased those notes. Now we need to decide what we are going to do with the properties, they have people living in them and they need renovating.
“One of the things Anne [Pasmanick] mentioned was racial issues. Kansas City as a community, for those of you who have lived here more than six months know, that people here tend to be pretty nice. That is our problem; we never want to kick anyone’s butt, we want to be nice. At some point, someone must make a decision and call it for what it is, and we do not do that here. We have serious racial issues and there is a racial divide in our neighborhoods and in the city. We should look for ways to partner more. These issues are not only at the neighborhoods level, but at the corporate level and foundation level as well. Corporate Kansas City and foundations generally don’t put their money into neighborhoods were there a majority different racial group than the foundations and corporate community is. It’s simply filtering through other organizations that tell them what to do. I am just stating what the neighborhoods tell me.
“Troost Avenue, as you can clearly see in the statistics, should serve as a way to bring us together, and not to divide us. And there are people who clearly wish to live in one part of the city, and they should be able to. And generally, once you get to a certain income stratum that is not an issue but it is a huge issue among the lower income status. An example: a good friend of mine who is the audience today wants to renovate Robinson Hospital which is located on West Paseo and 27th Street. For those of you who do not know, when Robinson Hospital was operating, it never allowed blacks or other minorities to work or even be a patient. When the local community sees that building, they see a symbol that we would call a swastika or a Southern rebel flag. I think the sensitive issues that relate to how you go after the dollar must be realized, you must be careful about it. That building allowed black folks to die on the steps before they would take them in.
“We need younger community leaders to pick up costs, and to bring them into the fold of our organizations. We need to create strategies for economic development activities for job creation. Our CDC and NPO’s should be lending money and participating in economic development job creation projects, as well as, for housing people. There needs to be more job creation projects. We need to continue to hire and properly train our young people so they feel that they are part of this community as well. When you go to neighborhoods meetings, the attendees are generally seniors, who have toiled in the trenches for years, trying to make something happen. Kansa City is a city of neighborhoods in addition to an entrepreneurial one, but we need to understand how to pull together and harness the young people to get them involved in this work.
“We need enlightened and committed elected officials to deal with housing and community development. This isn’t something that you just look at, but we need committed people; committed to the neighborhoods, to affordable housing, income generation, wealth generation, and job creation. Those are some of the issues I have seen. Thank you.”