0904 AFFORDABLE HOUSING

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COLUMBIA - Rental owners and real estate agents reacted Wednesday to a report from the City of Columbia that shows monthly rental averages in the city increased by 12.2% and median home values by 12.5% in the period from 2010 to 2017.

The Affordable Housing and Community Development Fact Sheet showed data collected from both the American community survey data and through the census.  Randy Cole, the housing programs manager for the city said that there has been a housing increase nationwide that is also impacting local prices. 

"Everything from the cost of new construction, the cost of materials—such as concrete, steel, lumber—also different demographic shifts we are seeing across the country and even here locally," Cole said. "A lot of the Baby Boomer generation is living longer and more independently and often moving into downsizing homes, into starter homes so there’s additional pressure on the markets."

Affordable housing is defined as occupants who spend no more than 30% of their income on gross housing costs, according to the affordable housing and community development fact sheet the city of Columbia released. 

“The number on the sheet does incorporate students, so if there’s more or less students on a given year it will impact these numbers," said Cole. 

One rental agency owner, Rob Hill of Log Hill Properties, said about 90% of his renters are students, so his company does not fully align with what the data show. 

"The last four years since the student protest, our prices have dropped on average 15%, so that would negate any of the 12% of increase," Hill said. 

Hill said it is more expensive to build properties now as there are codes that require more energy resources available in new buildings. 

"It makes it harder to have affordable housing when the costs went up about $4,000 per unit," Hill said. 

While it is currently difficult to find affordable housing, realtor Dave Ballenger said finding a solution is a necessary need in the community. 

"I work with people who never dreamed they could own a house," Ballenger said. "Now they’re excited about  being able for the first time to be able to own a house.”

In 2020, the city plans to invest in supplying more housing, but for now the hope is that the community understands why funds are necessary. 

“My hope would be that people see all the different facets of the affordable housing needs and what’s really driving those needs," Cole said. "We need comprehensive solutions to addressing those needs.”

The city plans to spend more than $5 million on affordable housing from 2020 to 2024. 

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