KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's been a priority for Mayor Quinton Lucas since Election Day.
On Friday, Mayor Lucas, who was took his new role in August, made good on his promises toward affordable housing. He and other advocates for the less-fortunate celebrate a victory, as the mayor signed the Tenant's Bill of Rights.
"This is just one part of caring about poor people in our city," Mayor Lucas said at a Friday morning gathering.
Lucas signed the Tenant's Bill of Rights, flanked by a jubilant crowd of supporters from KC Tenants, an advocacy group, who, for the last year, has worked with the mayor to draft the bill. It was approved by the city council on Thursday by a wide 12-1 margin. Members of KC Tenants complain they've been marginalized for too long, and discriminatory restrictions and evictions have damaged their families and their quality of life.
"This is what democracy looks like," a celebratory cry rang out as Lucas signed the resolution and ordnance therein.
The Tenant's Bill of Rights prevents landlords from refusing to rent to, or from evicting renters, based on their ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, or financial or legal records.
Tiana Caldwell, one member of KC Tenants, said she and her loved ones are among the reported 11,000 people evicted in Kansas City last year. Caldwell said she was undergoing treatments for cancer when she and her family, including a 12-year old son, lost their home.
"I didn`t know then that KC Tenants would change my life, or that KC Tenants would become my family. That day, we said we`d had enough. We were going to take back our city," Caldwell said.
Mya Neal, another supporter of KC Tenants, said she's suffered mental and physical anguish, having been made to, at times, live in conditions she calls horrible.
"We are not just here to win good policy. We are here to revolutionize how policy is made," Neal said. "We will be back to protect our siblings who receive housing assistance. We will be back to fight for our right to counsel. We will be back, of course, to increase the supply of truly, deeply, permanently affordable homes in Kansas City."
KC Tenants Bill of Rights took six months to develop. Many people in favor of these regulations point to large downtown developments, which are affecting overall housing costs locally.
"This is for all my comrades here today. This is for their kids. This is so that, in 20 years, none of our kids have to struggle anymore," James Owens, a member of KC Tenants said.
Mayor Lucas said one way or another, city leaders will find money to fund this project. He foresees sales taxes tied to the city's Community Development Block Grant as being one pot from which the money could come, which will presumably be used to hire staff members and establish an enforcement plan. Critics of the project, many of whom are Kansas City landlords, have claimed their right to rent to tenants of their choosing, and at a price the market demands.
"I would much rather be the mayor of a city where we care about how people can get to work, where we care about how people live, where we care about people having access to good quality housing that’s affordable," Mayor Lucas said.
"I would say to those people who aren’t interested in that, there are hundreds of municipalities all around us, and while I would love for them to be here, if you don’t want to be in a city that cares about its people, there are other choices you can make."