I’m a proud Kansas Citian. Though I’ve only been a resident for 3 years, this great town has been a part of my upbringing throughout the course of my life. I grew up in a small Kansas town, so the city was a frequent getaway for my family and I. Visiting our Country Club Plaza at Christmas, going to Chiefs games, and exploring this city’s vibrant neighborhoods are all fond memories I have of Kansas City.
While these are wonderful memories, my 3 years as a resident have shown me a side of the city that I never got to know as a kid. For example, the beautiful Country Club Plaza is just minutes away from some of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods. Chief’s stadium is surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling neighborhoods. Worse still, some of those vibrant communities I visited as a kid are now some of the city’s most downtrodden.
It is for these reasons that I was glad to join Kansas City’s Vacant Houses Action group. It’s a committee of citizens dedicated to revitalizing the city we share by combatting abandoned homes. Today, let’s explore the makeup of this group for a model you could pursue in your own city:
Objective: To unify key stakeholders in Kansas City working to combat blight. By creating channels for collaboration, sharing resources, and getting relevant parties communicating, it offers the best hope for fighting blight.
Makeup: Kansas City’s taskforce is a model of who you need to have at the table. It has city government officials, police officers, lawyers, real estate investors, and community members who regularly participate. Because they’ve been so diligent with diversity, the task force benefits from quick knowledge of available resources and an ability to act on them.
Routine: The committee meets bi-monthly and has an agenda of action items presented. Rather than just talking about the issues, they actively seek opportunities to fight abandoned homes. I’ve even witnessed a real estate investor purchasing an abandoned property based on a suggestion by a neighbor in the group. Additionally, the group is actively working to create a large fund to help the land bank invest in problem properties around the city. Because they have land bank officials, city officials, and investors at the same table, they dramatically improve their chances of bringing such a fund to life.
Openness: The vacant homes committee is highly open to new people and new ideas. The only requisite is that the person be dedicated to combatting vacant properties. For example, I first began interacting with the committee in the hopes of helping COPR Security donate security devices for abandoned homes. They made time for me to present, offered feedback, and even encouraged me to join the committee!
Josh - Presenting the COPR Security VP Smart Tower to the Committee
It’s these kinds of collaborative efforts that will help all American cities combat the blight that plagues our neighborhoods. That’s why we at Social Change Nation are teamed up with COPR to lead the charge against abandoned homes in our communities. Click the button below to keep updated on our efforts to combat community blight: