Loan fund targets abandoned KC houses for rehab instead of tear down

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's a growing desire among many in the urban core to rehab abandoned houses, instead of tearing them down.

A new investment pool may help restore a lot more blighted homes in run-down neighborhoods.

Legal Aid of Western Missouri has helped create the first social investment pool to provide loans to rehabbers who are restoring abandoned houses in the urban core.

Safe and affordable housing is viewed as a necessity to help lift people out of poverty.

Civic-minded investors have given $200,000 to help start the loan fund, with First Federal Bank donating an additional $105,000.

In the Washington-Wheatley neighborhood, there are plans to bring back more than 100 vacant houses to be occupied homes again.

"Some of the work that’s been done in Kansas City has taken homes and neighborhoods and replaced them with really nice expensive new homes," said Joe Dandurand, executive director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri. "Gentrification so to speak. What we do is a little bit of the opposite of gentrification. We want the folks that live here to stay here. We want to help them clean up and grow their neighborhoods."

There are about 5,000 vacant or blighted homes in Kansas City, and Legal Aid typically acquires about 50 a year to rehab. The fund will help expand this effort. 20 more houses are expected to be revitalized in the program's first three years.

There will be a workshop Thursday at the Seton Center for rehabbers interested in learning about the program. Loan terms are flexible, offered at a fixed rate between 8 and 14 percent.