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In an effort to improve the overall appearance and safety of Kansas City, Kansas, the Unified Government began a new initiative call SOAR -Stabilization, Occupation and Revitalization.  This effort began in January 2016 with staff from across the Unified Government coming together to discuss concerns about property maintenance, vacant and abandoned properties and concerns of safety shared by residents and businesses alike.  Discussions centered around the obstacles and challenges facing staff related to improving the appearance and safety of the community.  From those facilitated discussions, staff determined that  more robust data collection and data sharing was need to track and address these community concerns.  There was also a significant desire to enhance communications with residents and businesses related to property maintenance and safety programs, as well as a need to enhance the processes for prompt response to these issues and concerns from the community. 

Throughout 2016, staff researched the impact that poorly maintained properties have on neighborhoods and identified ways to address these challenges.  There is a significant correlation between vacant, abandonedSatisfaction Citizen Survey and poorly maintained properties and their impact on resale values within neighborhoods.  These properties also have a negative impact on the feeling of safety in the community.  The Mayor and Commission requested staff to put together a comprehensive plan to confront these challenges.  Staff presented 2017 Goals for SOAR to the Commission in January 2017, it is the first year of a five-year program to improve the quality of life in Wyandotte County – Kansas City, KS.  The areas of focus are Communication, Appearance and Safety and tie directly back to the feedback from the residents in the 2016 Resident Satisfaction Survey. 

Additionally, these areas of focus align with the Mayor and Commission’s new Strategic Plan that places major emphasis on allocating Unified Government resources to increasing property maintenance and the feeling of safety throughout the community. 

Major emphasis for 2017 will be in the following areas for SOAR: 

Develop and implement a management program vacant and abandoned properties to reduce the negative impacts on neighborhoods

Develop a vacancy registry to assist in tracking and management of vacant properties

Develop a strategic property maintenance enforcement plan to increase property maintenance index rating in the community

Implement an enhanced mowing, trash and junk removal program for all property within Kansas City, KS, including Unified Government owned properties

Reduce the number of tax sale eligible properties from 6,178 to 5,500 in 2017

Enhance the Land Bank to provide an opportunity revitalize houses

Enhance graffiti management

Increase the cleanliness of streets and public areas

Educate renters about their rights for safety rental units by contacting them directly

Update the Unified Government website to help communicate programs to help with property maintenance questions and to share information about public safety programs and initiatives

 Research ways to address issues with loose animals to enhance the feeling of safety in the community

As part of SOAR the Mayor and Commission have requested regular updates on the progress to the community.  Information will be provided through the, the Citizen Newsletter, and at community meetings as requested.  The Unified Government has also developed an open data portal that shares the data regarding property maintenance index, tax delinquency, rental housing and much more.  The open data and the performance measurement program for SOAR was established in conjunction with the What Work Cities award that the Unified Government received in 2016 to assist in tackling local problems through use of data and performance measurements.  The What Works Cities program enabled staff to develop open data policies to increase transparency and accountability.The goal of all of these efforts related to property maintenance and safety is to SOAR again in Kansas City, KS!   

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