Topeka JUMP urges city leaders to invest in affordable housing

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- More than 1,000 JUMP members gathered Monday night to fight for the future of affordable housing in Topeka.

Jump Co-Chair, Pastor Roger Smith, hopes the event at Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church will give city leaders a feeling of urgency to fix Topeka's low income housing need.

"We need both affordable housing and decent housing,” Smith said.

He spoke to a sea of yellow shirts about creating an affordable housing trust fund. It would need public funding, which would require a change in the city's housing ordinance.

"That will allow us that if we were to receive money that would support affordable housing, it would be available and utilized in that way," City Manager, Brent Trout, said.

Trout says it's a good idea but finding funding isn't so easy.

"Right now, as I look at the budget there isn't money available to do that unless we make some changes,” Trout said.

Cities around the country could be facing a low income housing crisis. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed a plan to increase minimum rent for public housing from 30 percent of a resident's gross income to 35 percent.

"It increases the urgency because if the federal government's going to step back from providing for low income families, the city and other entities are going to have to step up,” Smith said.

One organization stepping up is the Topeka Metro Authority. It launched a pilot program subsidizing taxi rides to people who work on the outskirts of the city.

"Last month, and the month is not over, we've had about 500 with 10 days of the month that we still haven't received data from. We're talking over 2,500 rides so far,” General Manager of Topeka Metro Authority, Susan Duffy, said.

JUMP hopes to help that program and push housing into the agendas of council leaders by early summer.

"Our goal isn't to vilify them for those choices but to really urge them onto lift these other items up as vitally important as say streets,” JUMP Co-Chair, Minister Doug Smith, said.