The transformation of public housing in Kansas City began in 1989 when Julie Levin, the Managing Attorney of the Central Office of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, filed the Tinsley vs. Kemp et al lawsuit in Federal District Court on behalf of public housing tenants and applicants. The lawsuit was filed against the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri (HAKC) and HUD. The suit alleged severe uninhabitable living conditions in Theron B. Watkins causing the de facto demolition of the development. HAKC had violated federal law requiring housing authorities to obtain approval from HUD before demolishing a public housing development.
In 1991, HAKC and HUD entered into a Consent Decree that required the complete renovation of Theron B. Watkins and the desegregation of public housing in Kansas City. However, HAKC and HUD soon violated the provisions of the decree and, after two contempt hearings, HAKC was placed in receivership.
As a result of the receivership, the court ordered the renovation of all of HAKC’s properties and the preservation of its resources. This resulted in the one-for-one replacement of any public housing unit that was sold or demolished. A tenant organization, the Public Housing Resident Council (PHRC), was formed and has assisted Ms. Levin in monitoring all HAKC policies, procedures, operations and the construction and development of HAKC’s properties.
Under receivership, HAKC became a model public housing authority cited by HUD as a housing authority to emulate. The agency has renovated or replaced nearly every public housing unit in Kansas City and has entered into development partnerships to create new mixed-income and affordable housing developments. HAKC now provides housing or housing assistance to more than 10,000 low-income families and has a public housing waiting list of nearly 9,500 families and a Section 8 voucher waiting list of over 17,000 families.
HAKC was removed from Receivership in April 2014. If HAKC compliance continues, the Tinsley case will be dismissed in 2015.