Raze old buildings with new tax
The Kansas City Star
A plan to tear down dangerous buildings with new tax revenue in Kansas City’s urban core makes a great deal of sense.
Over the years elected officials have failed to make it a top priority to demolish vacant structures that create blight and drive down property values for residents in dozens of neighborhoods. The city has allowed a backlog of more than 1,000 dilapidated buildings to accumulate.
Thanks to voters on Aug. 7, the city starting in January will impose a new half-cent sales tax that will raise $34 million annually, with most of it dedicated to running the Parks and Recreation Department. As a result of the new tax, the city also will be able to collect a use tax on out-of-state purchases made primarily by businesses, which will generate an additional $3 million or more a year.
Now, City Manager Troy Schulte has proposed using the first proceeds of the use tax — $1 million in the budget year that ends April 30, 2013 — to rip down up to 150 buildings.
It’s far short of what needs to be spent on this initiative. But the City Council should support Schulte’s recommendation, as long as the city staff has set the right priorities for which dangerous structures are demolished.
That means wiping out buildings in neighborhoods where potential for new housing units might exist. Or doing it where neighborhood leaders have plans to use the newly vacant ground for community gardens or to allow next-door neighbors to buy the land.
The council also should consider setting aside future new use tax funds to slash the number of dangerous buildings. That would be a welcome bonus for urban core residents.