Rents Rising So Fast It’s Not Just About Prices For Residents, It’s Hurting Kansas City | KCUR 89.3
When I first started renting an apartment in Kansas City in 1999, no one in my group of friends – mostly artists working in the service industry – was paying more than $ 425 a month. And most of us lived alone.
It wasn’t that long ago that cheap rents like this were the main attraction in Kansas City. Seattle had coffee and music. California had great weather and beaches. New York had the most exciting jobs and tons of cool stuff to do (if you could find the time and money to really enjoy it).
This city, on the other hand, had affordable apartments. But what people are paying now to share spaces with roommates – it hurts my brain (and not because I don’t understand the kind of market forces that drive rents up).
What doesn’t really calculate is when, exactly, it happened. I remember the rent was affordable. Then suddenly it wasn’t. But I can’t quite pinpoint the change.
I’m also worried about how the average renter here in town makes a difference – and how life in Kansas City changes if they can’t.
The other week I went on Twitter and invited people to play with me: “Tweet me what you paid for your first rental on the subway.”
Let’s try it another way. Tweet me what you paid for your 1st apartment / rental in the metro, where it was, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. I’ll correct for inflation and tell you what it would be like in 2021 as well as similar rentals in the same area for now. https://t.co/S8mJvX86x9
– Gina Kaufmann (@GinaKCUR) September 30, 2021
Almost 100 people shared their stories and, unsurprisingly, they revealed a pretty clear trend: Rents have risen dramatically in City Market, Columbus Park, Crossroads. But it has climbed even more dramatically in various areas of Midtown.
A two-bedroom apartment in Westport cost $ 850 in 2013 (over $ 950, adjusting for inflation). You would be hard pressed to find a similar apartment now for less than $ 1,300.
A two-bedroom house in East Brookside rented for $ 350 in the late 1990s (over $ 600 today). Renting a similar house now costs almost $ 1,500 per month.
A one bedroom in Volker, just off West 39th Street, went for $ 500 in 2011, just a decade ago. Even with inflation, it’s only $ 620 today. An available unit in the same building is currently listed for $ 950.
In much of Midtown, rental rates appeared to have doubled in the past decade alone. And pretty much all of the units I’ve seen cost over $ 800. Where could you go, I wondered, for less than $ 800 a month?
I broadened my search, flipped through the subway listings, and realized that a spot within this budget is nearly impossible to find in Kansas City. We’re not just talking about a minimum square footage or a specific neighborhood. We’re talking about rentals of any size, in any neighborhood.
âI think a lot of people react instinctively when they hear about rent increases in the city, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is downtown, this is Crossroads, right? really expensive to live there, âsaid Erin Royals at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Center for Neighborhoods. “I’m like ‘This is not the story.’ I know where people have seen huge increases in their cost of living. And it’s not downtown. It’s not the Carrefour. It’s on the east side. “
Royals has a master’s degree in urban planning and is in the process of completing her doctorate. in geography. She says what’s happening in Kansas City can be explained by a discrepancy between an area’s current value and what she could to be worthwhile.
âCapital will always go where it can make the most profit,â Royals said. “The further east you go, that gap gets bigger and bigger.”
Data from market analysts at Cushman and Wakefield corroborates what she says: Not only are rents going up, but the people who see the biggest rent increases are also the ones who can least afford them.
Rents in Kansas City increased 6% across the entire second quarter of 2020 through the second quarter of 2021.
According to Matthew Nevinger, who specializes in the Kansas City market to Cushman and Wakefield, it’s basically unheard of. âThe normal annual growth in rents would be 2-3%,â says Neveringer.
If you zoom in on eastern Kansas City, the data is even darker. During the same period, rents rose 13.1% in eastern Kansas City. Meanwhile, Neverger calculates just 4.8% wage growth for the same portion of the metro over the same period, using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“So, 12 months earlier, your rent in eastern Jackson County, Independence and eastern Kansas City, was $ 791 per unit, which was the lowest in the metro area,” he said. Nevinger said. “And now it’s up to $ 895.”
These increases were greatest for lower to mid-range units. That is, places rented out to people from the working class.
Young people often compensate by dividing the rent between roommates. But this strategy doesn’t work for everyone.
Take, for example, Pat Lucas. At 67, she retired from a long career holding various security positions, most notably at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Of course, she wants her own place.
Lucas has lived in the same building on Armor Boulevard in Midtown for 17 years. But she and a number of other residents have just been told they need to move – and soon. A new property plans to rehabilitate the property, and once it’s been renovated, Lucas says his apartment rent will drop from $ 650 per month to over $ 1,000.
She is now looking for a new apartment and says she would have a hard time paying rent over $ 700.
“That would be pushing my limits on things, because you know there are times when you have to – like I mean – sometimes with my meds, if it says take two a day, I take it one. times a day, âLucas admits. “It’s just to save money.”
It’s not just money at stake. Lucas – who walks with a cane – watches over his granddaughter during the day for part of the week. Knowing your neighbors made this duty easy and safe. By going elsewhere, she will have to rebuild the feeling of comfort that comes from familiarity and belonging.
Which reminds me, again, of my question: How do tenants make a difference, and how does Kansas City change if they can’t?
According to Wilson Vance, 30, who grew up in a tiny Midtown apartment with his mother, Kansas City will soon be unrecognizable if this continues.
Vance is an organizer for the housing rights group KC Tenants. She calls herself the “quintessential town” – barista jobs in Midtown since the moment she moved on her own at age 16.
In her twenties, Vance thought she might like to try living in another city. But when she visited these big cities, she saw prohibitively priced apartment buildings that all looked identical to each other.
“I would come back here and be like, ‘Damn, at least it’s not like that in Kansas City. âAnd then I started to see this happening in my own town, in my own neighborhood,â Vance says. “Two years later, I was kicked out of my 10-year-old home.”
Finally, his mother was also put a price.
“We’re basically sending a message,” Vance says, “that people like my mom and I don’t matter.”
Now, every time Vance sees construction in her new neighborhood, it scares her, because she sees it as a sign that she soon won’t be able to afford the new house she’s built. She doesn’t know how long she and other tenants like her can stay ahead of the ârevitalizationâ of Kansas City.
It wants is simple – and overwhelming.
âI want to die here,â she said. “I want to grow old in Kansas City.”
This story is part of a series on housing issues in the Kansas City area produced by the KC Media Collective, an initiative designed to support and improve local journalism. Members of the KC Media Collective include KCUR 89.3, American Public Square, Kansas City PBS / Flatland, Missouri Business Alert, Startland News, and The Kansas City Beacon.