Columbia details long term plans for urban areas

5 years 9 months 1 week ago Wednesday, October 01 2014 Oct 1, 2014 Wednesday, October 01, 2014 6:28:45 AM CDT October 01, 2014

COLUMBIA - Columbia shares a new long term plan to use federal funds to improve urban areas throughout the city. A detailed document called the consolidated plan outlines the city's plan for improvement and how the funds will be used. The plan is required to receive funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

This year the city recived more than $800,000 in HUD funding to imrpove urban communites.

"The most important part of the plan are pages 16 and 17. Where it states how were going to spend our money," said Housing Program Specialist, Randy Cole.

The recently released plan details priority needs, goals, strategies, and plans of implementation for urban areas in the city. There are five major categories that city planners and community members identified as needing improvement; neighborhood needs, fair housing, community facilities, economic development, and affordable housing. 

"We did a really thorough job of getting input from the public," Cole said.

The city hosted seven community forums and five public hearings. Cole said the city really wanted to focus on homeownership assistance activities and increasing homeownership throughout the city. 

Most of the money received from the federal grant program is used for affordable housing and neighborhood needs, such as infrastructure reconstruction, like building sidewalks and bus shelters. The city plan outlines increasing neighborhood accessibility to businesses as a priority need, and plans to complete five new sidewalk and infrastructure projects and construct five new bus shelters. Cole said bus shelters were among the top concerns of residents. 

Fair housing education and outreach is also listed as  priority need and the city plans to provide fair housing education and counseling to up to 150 business professionals and low-income households. 

In the past, the city has used funds to renovate parks, as a part of improving urban community facilities. The new five-year plan also allocates funding to community facilities specifically those serving youth, mental health, ex-offenders and homeless. 

"One thing that we are focusing on now, that we haven't done so much in the past, is economic development," Cole said.

The city is also taking a new approach to increasing employment with vocational training aimed towards youth and micro-loan lending for small business. 

"We've done a big marketing push," Cole said. 

He said the city has seen an increase in attendance to community improvement events and programs. 

"Come this winter we defnitely plan to do some additional marketing, connecting with local organizations, the media, and expanding our efforts."

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