City wants your input on how to use federal housing funds

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COLUMBIA - The city released a survey Wednesday asking for community input on how to use funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

The city predicts it will receive about $1.2 million to spend in primarily low-income areas on economic development, fair housing, community facilities, neighborhood needs, and affordable housing.

In 2014 the city used the survey to develop a 5-year consolidated plan. It followed up with focus groups and public hearings, and used all of that input to create 16 production goals for that plan. 

“To me it’s always most important to look at what the data says and also what the public wants, and really have that public input process drive what we do," said Randy Cole, Housing Program Supervisor of the Community Development Department. 

Some Columbia residents shared their views on some of the measures in the survey.

1. Affordable, energy-efficient housing:

"Being environmentally aware seems the most strategic and important," said Columbia resident Cassidy Robinson.

“Energy-efficient housing should be the norm," said former Columbia resident Joan Riback, whose daughter now lives in Columbia. 

2. Creation of more bus shelters: 

“People would feel more comfortable getting on the bus," Robinson said. 

“Bus shelters are a great way increase the ridership in public transportation, and help people to be comfortable when waiting for buses," Riback said. 

3. Outreach and education to low-income households regarding fair housing rights:

“Most people who are on low-income housing, it’s not that they’re poorly educated, they’re just living within their means, and they might not have any idea that things are offered to them," Robinson said. 

Both women also agreed the city should continue to spend money on its residents that aren't students, suggesting the development of student housing has overtaken the housing for other residents. 

“Student housing has got a bit out of hand in Columbia. It’s taken over the community, and there just isn’t enough character in the housing that’s going up," Riback said. 

“Now that I see all of this development and student housing, and it’s not the students or anything, but literally like the town sold out, and I can’t be here anymore," Robinson said. “I’ve had friends that have been here their whole lives that were all about Columbia, that have moved because of all of this development.”

According to a 2013 University of Missouri Columbia Student Housing Analysis, the total demand of student housing was about 16,600, only taking into account MU and Stephens students, and expected to decrease. It reported that year there was about a 5 percent oversupply of student housing, or 902 beds. 

The city of Columbia held an Affordable Housing Symposium on affordable housing needs and efforts. The summary statement of the information gathered stated, "Columbia should continue to examine policies to ensure quality affordable housing is available to its citizens." It defined affordable housing as, "Housing for which the occupants are paying no more than 30% of income for gross costs, including utilities."

Low-Income Housing Statistics: one_page_summary_info-randy_(1).docx