KCMO Land Bank making dreams of home ownership come true

By John Baccala, Neighborhoods and Housing Services

He is not a genie, a fairy godmother or ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ But Ted Anderson does make dreams come true! Anderson is the executive director of the KCMO Land Bank and thanks to creative ownership programs and a hard-working, dedicated staff, he is making the dream of home ownership a reality for many Kansas Citians. Anderson is taking abandoned and sometimes blighted properties and creating life-changing opportunities for individuals and families across the city. Anderson said putting someone into a home who never thought they could own a home is an “awesome” feeling.

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“Many people have told me their lives have been changed for the better in the process,” he said. “Typically, our buyers are paying anywhere from $850 to $1,200 per month in rent. With these houses, there are no payments, so once the rehab work is done, the buyer owns the house free and clear.”

Established five years ago, the KCMO Land Bank takes unproductive tax sale properties and gets them back on the tax rolls, thus improving and stabilizing neighborhoods. Anderson and his staff have used some very creative marketing strategies, like the Dollar Home Sale and #HeartofKC home sale, to generate interest and ownership.

“With the Dollar Home Sale, we tried to save some houses in fairly poor condition instead of demolishing them,” Anderson said. “We knew it would cost the City about $8,500 to demolish each house, so we took some demolition candidates and sold them, with the promise if the house were rehabbed, we would pay the cost we saved - $8,500- to the person who did the rehab. “That program was wildly popular!”

The #HeartofKC homes sold for $999, but the houses were in much better shape and required a lot less work.

Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City has purchased three homes in the 3000 block of Highland Ave. from the Land Bank. Each has been rehabbed and has families living in them. “Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City is very appreciative and grateful for our partnership with the Land Bank,” said Lindsay Hicks, Habitat’s development director. “The properties we have acquired through the Land Bank have been instrumental to our neighborhood revitalization efforts.

“We look forward to serving more families and building homes, communities and hope in partnership with key stakeholders like the Land Bank.”

The KCMO Land Bank has thousands of properties for sale - from homes to vacant lots. Most of the properties are in the city’s urban core, leading many to believe getting financing to buy and rehab a Land Bank property would be difficult, if not almost impossible. Anderson said nothing could be further from the truth.

“You can get bank financing for the purchase and rehab of a Land Bank home,” Anderson said. “We have several banks willing to approve purchase and rehab money for persons to buy Land Bank homes.

“Although it seems a little complicated at first, the process to buy a Land bank property is pretty simple. Lots of people do it every month!”

Even those with past credit problems can buy a Land Bank property. Anderson said the KCMO Land Bank works with a credit repair company willing to lend money once a homeowner education program is completed. Obtaining title insurance also was once a deterrent to selling Land Bank properties, but no more. “It used to be ‘buyer beware’ when a person bought a property at the tax sale,” Anderson said. “Now we have two title companies who specialize in providing title insurance for tax sale properties.”

Few are lucky enough to see how their work changes someone’s life for the better. Anderson is one of those lucky few.

“The greatest Land Bank success story, I think, involves the low to middle income family,” he said. “It (home ownership) changes their life forever because they no longer have that huge rent payment. They are no longer simply throwing away their money with absolutely nothing to show for it.

“They have a home that’s theirs!” For more information about the Land Bank, go to kcmolandbank.org