Kansas City’s Tax Assistance: A Boon for Westside Homeownership

Kansas City's Tax Assistance: A Boon for Westside Homeownership

The Westside neighborhood of Kansas City has been Juana Martinez’s cherished home for over four decades. Since acquiring her house in 1988 on a peaceful stretch of 26th Street, she’s created a lifetime of memories. It’s where she raised her children, and now, with her retired husband and her 95-year-old mother, she continues to build her life.

Juana’s daily routine is closely entwined with her beloved Westside community. She holds two jobs, both conveniently within walking distance from her home, working at a local community health clinic and Manny’s Mexican Restaurant on Southwest Boulevard. Her free moments are dedicated to family; crafting piñatas for her grandkids and preparing pupusas when her children come to visit.

With deep gratitude, Juana acknowledges the stability her home provides. “I thank God that I have a house to stay, a place to stay,” she says, reflecting on her attachment to the Westside. Her connection to the neighborhood is profound, with a church just across the street and her workplace just a couple of blocks away.

At 67, Juana has transformed her home into a sanctuary, especially during this season. Her dining table is adorned with a vibrant orange bouquet, and near the front door stands an ofrenda, an altar honoring her departed family members. Her home serves as the heart of her family, a gathering place for holidays and special occasions.

Despite her deep ties to the Westside, Juana has faced a growing concern in recent years due to the soaring property values and property taxes in the area. The escalating costs have raised doubts about her ability to remain in her cherished neighborhood. She candidly expresses, “With the inflation, life is so hard right now. It’s so expensive.”

Juana’s love for the Westside spurred her and many of her neighbors to advocate for tax relief last year. Through the Westside Chapter 353 Redevelopment Plan, hundreds of homeowners in similar circumstances – many of whom are Latino, elderly, low-income, and reside in multigenerational households – have become eligible for substantial property tax cuts.

In its inaugural year, the program garnered 272 applicants, administered by the Westside Housing Organization, representing approximately 53% of homeowners in the area. Colleen Hernandez, a resident of the Westside who played a vital role in the Chapter 353 plan, recognizes the significant impact it has had in alleviating the financial burdens of these homeowners.

The Chapter 353 plan not only eases the strain of property taxes but also embodies the community’s resilience and determination to preserve their homes and way of life in the face of economic challenges. It’s a testament to the power of local initiatives in fostering affordability and sustainability within beloved neighborhoods like the Westside.

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