The Kansas City Council on Thursday passed a resolution setting the stage for a study on linkage fees to help fund affordable housing in the city.
The resolution directs the city manager to issue a request for proposals for a nexus study of establishing a linkage fee program for new development.
Linkage fees are typically charged to developers and then spent on the preservation or production of affordable housing units. The funds could help sustain the city’s housing trust fund.
“Too many Kansas Citians are housing insecure,” Councilwoman Andrea Bough, District 6 at-large, said during Thursday’s council meeting. She added that the city needs to at least explore linkage fees as an option.
Linkage fee study
The study would consider best practices across the country, look at peer city policies as well as the requirements of jurisdictions in the Kansas City metro. It would also include reviewing the city’s development fees, evaluating the sufficiency of those current fees, and explore the impact the program would have.
Before issuing the request for proposals, city manager Brian Platt is directed to first find funding for the study and any consultants or experts needed.
“We are in a housing crisis but we are also in a position to do something about it before it becomes more serious and expensive to fix,” Bough said.
Linkage fees are also one of the tools suggested as a possibility in the five year housing policy that the city adopted in 2019.
That five year policy also suggested exploring a linkage fee policy with a nexus study.
City Council concerns
Councilman Kevin O’Neill, District 1 at-large, said he was concerned about putting additional fees on the housing industry to fund the city’s entire housing problem.
“When we do a study on one industry, we are actually allowing all the other industries to slide by and not be a part of this,” O’Neill said. “I like the idea but I don’t know why we always restrict it to just developers. I just can’t support one industry picking up the tab.”
Councilman Dan Fowler, District 2, said he wants to ensure the city does not penalize businesses trying to solve the issue.
Councilwoman Heather Hall, District 1, questioned why the city would add a new fee in addition to the fees the city already has. Those fees, she said, mean Kansas City already has “bad working relationships with many developers ... we are fighting all the time to get development done in Kansas City.”
Thursday’s resolution, said Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, District 4 at-large, was a first step.
“Before we can even consider the linkage fee, we need this type of information,” Shields said.
Councilman Eric Bunch, District 4, said he supported the resolution because it would evaluate the possibility, saying the “linkage fee is just a tool in the toolbox.”
Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, District 3, said she supports the resolution because “there have to be tools to balance the scales as it relates to affordable housing.”
And Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, District 5, said “that it is imperative that we pursue every option that we have.”
The four Northland councilmembers — District 2 at-large Councilwoman Teresa Loar, Hall, Fowler and O’Neill — voted against the resolution.
“So I ask my colleagues is the construction of affordable housing still a goal of this council?” Bough said. “And if it is, what are we going to do to fully implement that goal? This resolution offers an opportunity to examine an implementation tool.”