Kansas City renters have hard time finding place to live downtow - KCTV5 News

Kansas City renters have hard time finding place to live downtown and stay within budget

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Downtown Kansas City is booming once again. (KCTV5) Downtown Kansas City is booming once again. (KCTV5)

Downtown Kansas City is booming once again.

Just 10 years ago, downtown wasn’t yet home to the Kansas City Live! venue, the Sprint Center or new luxury apartments like One Light.

Now, 3,900 more residential units are planned for this year. Still, people in the city are having a hard time finding a place to rent on a budget.

“I probably looked at 20 different places before I ended up settling here,” said Tricia Zion.

Zion recently moved back to Kansas City from Southern California, but her journey back to the metro was anything but smooth. It took weeks of searching before she settled on a two-bedroom in Midtown near Costco.

“I’m not looking for something luxury,” she said. “I just need something that doesn’t have rats in it and will take my dog and is livable but it’s difficult to find that here.”

The problem she found is there are not enough apartments for rent that young professionals can afford. Zion says she is paying more in student loans then she is in rent, and she’s already stretching her pockets. 

“I know I looked at one place on the plaza and they wanted $1,200 for a studio and I was like, 'That’s how much it is in California. How do you get away charging that?'” Zion questioned.

The reality is, however, that you’ll find those prices all the way from the Country Club Plaza up to the River Market. New luxury apartments are coming up, with price tags that match. Downtown, you will also find a lot of assisted housing.

The income restrictions range from $31,080 to $31,740 in the downtown area. That means if you make more, you can’t live there. Leaving the people making just over that - many recent graduates - with very few housing options.

“Most people aren’t making high salaries, this is the Midwest,” said Relator Curtis Jay with the Boveri Realty Group.

Jay knows the numbers. He helps people like Zion find those few affordable places.

When we asked him if there are enough affordable places. He replied, “There’s not, there’s not a lot of places that are affordable for the mass.”

Let’s compare rent costs.

For a studio in the luxury One Light building, you’ll get less than 600 square feet for $1350 a month. That comes with a pool, in-unit laundry and granite.

A cheaper option we found is an apartment in the Board of Trade building. That’s downtown across the street from the Kansas City Public Library and by KC Loft Central, which has several units in the greater downtown area.

It comes to $950 with free rent this month for about 700 square feet, but this apartment comes with no granite and no stainless steel.

Jay says studios in the downtown district cost an average of $1,095 a month and developers can charge a $1.75 a square foot, if not more.

What’s unique is Kansas City is actually one of the few places in the nation, Jay says, where its actually cheaper to live in the suburbs. That is because more people want to live in the city than there are rooms. Remember, just 10 years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot downtown.

“There’s a big demand out there for people who want to live downtown, but for the longest time there has not been the supply, which is part of the reason why rent prices are high,” explained Jay.

Now, it’s a game of catch up. New buildings are popping up here, but not fast enough for past renters like Shelby Wittmeyer.

“Honestly, I think I found plenty of places that had everything I wanted but I had to have a roommate because I couldn’t afford it,” said Wittmeyer, who now owns a house in the Northland.

She decided to stop renting because of the skyrocketing rent prices. Besides having a roommate, it’s another solution to avoid the high prices.

The other option Jay says is, “If you don’t make a lot of money, you are going to be rent poor if that’s where you want to live.”

Finding a roommate was what Zion ended up turning to. It’s something she was trying to avoid when moving back from California.

“I was a little surprised," she said.

According to Jay, things could change in the next few months.

Next year, Two Light will be here, along with 531 Grand in the River Market and quite a few new lofts in the Crossroads Arts District.

No, that doesn’t mean prices are going down, but more places to live are coming up. That means apartments will be offering incentives; you’ll see free months’ rent or free parking, which will help to cut down the initial cost of your move. 

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