Howard Adams became a Kansas City landlord while he was still a delivery driver, rehabbing houses himself and renting them out to provide a retirement income.
Most go for $500 to $700 a month, he said, squarely in the range of what city policymakers would call affordable housing — a major element of the sweeping new five-year housing plan introduced by city officials Wednesday.
Adams was one of about a dozen property owners who came to City Hall to say that portions of the plan, if adopted, would hinder their ability to do business.
“I feel I have helped improve the lives of many of my tenants,” Adams, 72, told the City Council’s housing committee. He said he had the flexibility to take chances on tenants with sketchy credit or work histories because he “looked at each applicant as an individual.”
Among the draft’s 70 pages are a series of provisions enhancing tenants’ rights. They include prohibiting landlords from turning away prospective tenants if they had been evicted more than five years ago, or were involved in an eviction lawsuit they won. The draft policy would also bar landlords from discriminating on the basis of an applicant’s source of income. This would include housing vouchers or Social Security.
“What you are proposing will take that flexibility away from me,” Adams said. “I will have to look for higher credit scores, longer periods on the job and no contact with the court system.”
Rents and security deposits would go up “to allow for the extended costs of removal of a tenant should I make a bad judgment call,” he said.
Tenant advocates said the proposed protections are an essential part of any new housing policy.
Gina Chiala, executive director and staff attorney for the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, spoke in favor of provisions for expanded legal representation of tenants trying to navigate eviction proceedings in court.
“These people do not have access to counsel,” Chiala said, adding that she’s seen many defendants unwittingly sign their own eviction documents.