Columbia considers affordable housing improvements

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COLUMBIA - City leaders will hold an affordable housing symposium Dec. 3-4 to address concerns and ideas to ease the issue of income inequality in Columbia.

Data from 2013 show about 15 percent of citizens in Columbia make less than $10,000 per year which is more than double the percentage of people making less than $10,000 per year in Missouri. 

"We need to focus on what's possible based on the funding sources we have," Ward Three Council Member Karl Skala said. "We also need to think about the future, and how we might incorporate some incentives to some of the development interests to incorporate some of the affordable housing."

The symposium will consist of three parts in which city leaders from across the country and local experts will speak about what can be done to help reduce income inequality and provide affordable housing in Columbia.

"We need to find out what other people have tried, and what has worked and what hasn't worked," Skala said. "Then we can tailor our system based on the laws that we have."

The symposium comes after City Manager Mike Matthes addressed his growing concerns about the rising income inequality in the city in July 2015. Matthes said unemployment for African-Americans is 15.6 percent while only 4.4 percent for whites. Matthes said the disparity in social equity is rising especially with African-Americans who make 30 percent less than they did in 1968 in Columbia.

"A lot of the students who go to high school are on free or reduced lunches. It is all connected," Skala said. "This is just one piece of that, the affordable housing piece."

Skala said he understands many citizens are concerned about the rising number of upper-scale living complexes and college living places in the city opposed to the lack of more affordable housing.

"There are profits to be made with those high-end properties, but folks have to realize that a lot of the folks who live in some of the more affordable or lower income housing stock are some of the employees for the folks who are making the profits for the developing companies in the high-end companies," Skala said.

Ward two council member Michael Trapp said a shift in the job market also is negatively impacting social equity.

"The biggest reason is the decline in manufacturing jobs and shift to more retail jobs," Trapp said.

All sessions of the symposium will take place at 701 E. Broadway. For more information and to register to attend, click here.