Columbia to create new task force to prevent housing discrimination
COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia plans to pull together a group of professionals from diverse backgrounds to work on eliminating discrimination in its housing market.
Columbia’s Housing Programs Supervisor, Randy Cole, said the city has been eyeing the creation of a Fair Housing Task Force for a while. He said every five years, the city does an analysis of the its fair housing issues, such as economic and racial segregation, access to opportunities, affordable housing, etc.
“This task force is an opportunity to involve the community in that process to make sure that we are promoting fair housing in our community,” Cole said.
According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, there were 28,181 reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2016 nationwide, and 55 percent of the complaints involved discrimination on the basis of disability, followed by 19.6 percent for racial discrimination, and 8.5 percent for discrimination against families with kids.
Wayne Crawford is the executive director of the Missouri Inclusive Housing Development Corporation. The corporation is a state-funded nonprofit based in Marshall that provides free housing services to Missouri residents with disabilities.
Crawford said individuals with disabilities usually need more help when trying to work their way out of poverty, and it’s especially true in Columbia.
“Ladies and gentlemen on social security income in Columbia average around $733 a month in salary. The average rental for an affordable apartment in your community is $733 month,” Crawford said. “So, you can see the two numbers don’t come together very well.”
Crawford said just like in any other college towns, it’s common to see properties rented out by the bedroom in Columbia.
“Students could pay as much as $500 a month just for a bedroom,” he said. “When we look at our ladies and gentlemen in need who are making $733 a month—they can’t compete.”
Crawford said compared to other Missouri cities, Columbia is actually in an advantageous position, as the government has been “working very hard” to develop a good housing environment for people in need, and there are a multitude of social service organizations in town.
He said the more urgent thing to do is to bring the government and the organizations together.
“So that the support agencies can explain what they want in the way of housing, where they need housing, who the housing will be for…” Crawford said.
According to the proposed resolution, the task force will consist of 15 members from these groups: Community Development Commission, Community Land Trust Organization Board, the city's planning and zoning commission, human services commission, disabilities commission, housing authority, Columbia Board of Realtors, Columbia Apartment Association, Columbia Home Builders Association, Columbia NAACP, social service providers, the local faith community and the Central City Neighborhood in Census Tracts 7, 9 or 21.
City council members appointed by the council will serve as co-chairs.
“The information received from this task force will shape how we allocate funds in the future,” Cole said.
If the council approves the resolution to create the task force Monday, its first meeting would be in April. Cole said he is confident the council will support the resolution.