The REALTORS® of Kansas City, Missouri had no desire to engage in an ‘us vs. them’ battle with the local tenants’ rights organization, but something had to be done to oppose a proposed ordinance forcing extreme and expensive regulations on the region’s landlords. With help from the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program, they launched a campaign focused on the need to make rental housing more affordable – not less.
Derek Ramsay, Senior Vice President of REALTOR® Advocacy for the ® (KCRAR,) roughly half of whose 11,000 members live and work in Missouri, explains that the local political environment had become sharply polarized in recent years, with a powerful and organized tenants’ rights group and a progressive new mayor and City Council. Last summer, voters approved an expensive annual inspection/registration requirement for rental properties. The next proposed housing ordinance focused on increasing rental access for tenants typically considered more challenging to house, including those with a history of previous evictions or felony convictions. While the REALTORS® are fully supportive of Fair Housing, says Ramsay, not being allowed to screen tenants greatly increases their risk of default, adding cost and reducing affordability in the rental market. He adds, “As we say, ‘A good landlord with a bad tenant goes bankrupt; vice versa, and a tenant goes homeless.’ We don’t oppose tenants’ rights; we want to work together to improve things for everyone involved.”
Rather than launch an issues mobilization campaign on negative footing, KCRAR made its message prior to the City Council vote a resounding call to ‘Support More Affordable Housing.’ “We had terrific support from the REALTOR® Party, whose team put together a great CFA that engaged 14% of our members in just three days. We got the attention of the new City Council, who are now starting out with a strong sense that the REALTORS® are a voice for affordable housing.” Though the vote didn’t go their way, he is not daunted. “It puts us in a strong position for future debates on these issues, which are coming soon.”
He notes that participation in the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert program among KCRAR members is growing, along with a significant increase in membership that’s accompanying the strong housing market in Kansas City. “We push the program in our new member orientation, and in all continuing education classes. It’s a simple thing, to have everyone in the room take out mobile phones and push a few keys – done!” Moving forward, the REALTORS® plan to be advocating for fairness in future ordinances governing landlord-tenant issues – and they’ll be ready, when needed, with Calls For Action. Ramsay notes that KCRAR is also looking to propose other positive, pro-active solutions, such as an up-front Tenant Emergency Fund. “Doesn’t it make more sense,” he asks, “to spend money to help people stay in their homes, instead of on legal fees in eviction court?”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Kansas City, Missouri are working to maintain the rights of property owners and keep a lid on the cost of rental housing, contact Derek Ramsay, Senior Vice President of REALTOR® Advocacy of the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS®, at 913-266-5910.