This morning, over 35 KC Tenants leaders and allies testified in the City’s first public hearing this season, demanding $1.2 million for the Office of the Tenant Advocate and in solidarity with the KC Homeless Union.
The City’s proposed budget allocates just $111,495 to fund the Office of the Tenant Advocate, a 66% cut from last year’s already-inadequate $327,764. The proposed allocation would mean the City spends just 38 cents per Kansas City tenant on critical rights enforcement. For every $1 for tenants, the City proposes a whopping $2,340 for police.
In 2019, KC Tenants drafted and won a Tenants Bill of Rights in December 2019. The Tenants Bill of Rights became City law in June 2020. The City failed to hire advocates until October 2020. The City has failed to create a website with information on tenants rights. The City has failed to translate rights materials to ensure that every tenant can access them.
While tenants make up half of Kansas City’s residents, the City’s budget proposal does not reflect our needs. This year, in the midst of a pandemic and corresponding economic crisis, tenants need our rights enforced more than ever. KC Tenants proposed a fully funded Office of the Tenant Advocate. Read our budget proposal here.
Today, more Kansas Citians than ever before live on the streets, in motels, or out of their cars. People experiencing homelessness have unionized as of last month. The KC Homeless Union is organizing an ongoing encampment outside of City Hall, issuing demands for homes, water, and a seat at the table. Read the Homeless Union’s demands here.
Of the 42 testimonies during this morning’s budget hearing, 35 came from KC Tenants leaders and allies, despite the City’s technical difficulties that made this meeting inaccessible to most of the public. KC Tenants plans to return to the next hearing, next week.
“The thing about laws? If you don’t fund their implementation, you can’t enforce them. If you don’t enforce them, they don’t matter, said KC Tenants leader Jenay Manley. “A budget is a moral document. What’s clear from this proposed budget is that this City cares more about private property, profits, and the police that protect those profits, than they care about a human life, and certainly more than they care about tenants.”
“This City keeps putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. If you care about responsible spending, fund the Office of the Tenant Advocate. Funding to protect tenant rights is a proactive strategy. It can help keep tenants in their homes. Are you with the people? Or are you busy with something else?,” said KC Tenants leader Diane Charity.
“Tenants in Kansas City are disproportionately Black and brown. The communities impacted by COVID are disproportionately Black and brown. The communities brutalized at the hands of the police are disproportionately Black and brown. The Mayor, City Council, and City Manager are making a statement: You would rather invest in the systems that are hurting us than the systems that could heal us,” said KC Tenants leader Tiana Caldwell.
“Two days ago, this Council said resources were abundant enough to give the rich kids a $36 million soccer complex. Today, this Council says that resources are scarce enough to require a 66% cut to the Office of the Tenant Advocate. Abundance for the rich, scarcity for the poor,” said KC Tenants leader Emerson Hays.
“The City keeps pouring money into services. Those shelters you spend our money on? They’re in the business of staying in business. We, the homeless, have our own demands. And y’all have a problem, cuz the homeless have a voice,” said Qadhafi Shelby, a leader with KC Tenants and the KC Homeless Union.