Want to stop neighborhoods from running down? Get out your checkbook

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Standing alongside Legal Aid attorney Jeff Williams and Joanne Bussinger of Blue Hills Community Services Corp., the mayor (right) blasted bulk home buyers.
  • Standing alongside Legal Aid attorney Jeff Williams and Joanne Bussinger of Blue Hills Community Services Corp., the mayor (right) blasted bulk home buyers.

Have $6,000 laying around? Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser thinks you should buy a house. This weekend.

Hizzoner set up a microphone in Ruskin Heights on Wednesday and talked about an auction of 200 foreclosed homes taking place later this week. Funkhouser asked local buyers to step up and keep the properties out of the hands of out-of-town investors.

The mayor complained that speculators have gobbled up hundreds of houses in Kansas City, "often without them even opening the front door. These groups too often allow these homes to sit and rot and fall into disrepair, betting that at some point they'll be worth more than the $5,000 they paid for the house."

Legal Aid of Western Missouri recently filed a lawsuit against a Utah company that owns dozens of homes on the East Side. Acting on behalf of neighborhood organizations, Legal Aid wants the company, Go Invest Wisely, to sell or maintain its stock. Legal Aid says the homes are "blighted and dangerous eyesores."

Funkhouser said he is worried that distantly located speculators are going to buy the auction properties "for a song" and then sit on them until they can chisel out a profit. Vacant homes that owners make no effort to maintain damage neighborhoods, Funkhouser said, adding, "We need families who mow the grass, shovel the snow and pay the taxes."

The press conference took place in the new driveway of a home being renovated by Neighborhood Housing Services.

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