Columbia kicks off two-day Affordable Housing Symposium

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia's Affordable Housing Symposium began Thursday afternoon in City Hall. 

105 people were registered for the two-day conference by the time it started. 

The meeting began with opening remarks from Columbia's Housing Programs Supervisor, Randy Cole, who said one of the city's main priorities is creating more social equity in Columbia. 

"One of the first steps to achieving social equity in our community is creating more opportunities for affordable housing," Cole said. 

Cole defined affordable housing as housing requiring no more than 30 percent of the occupant's income for housing costs, including utilities. The symposium centered on families with incomes at 80 percent or below that median income of the area.

The city brought in outside help to the discussion. The mayor of Missoula, Montana, the president of the National Developers of Affordable Housing and a housing program manager from Boulder, Colorado were all scheduled to speak at the event about their strategies for providing better affordable housing opportunities in their communities. 

Missoula Mayor John Engen described affordable housing as a "basic human right that all people should have access to". 

Dionne George, MU's off-campus student services coordinator, attended the event to see what opportunities are available for students who seek affordable housing options. 

"I know it's a very important issues for low-income families, but I meet with a lot of students regularly who are looking for affordable housing that will suit their budget," George said. 

"The most important thing we want to do with this is have some actual steps," Cole said. "We want to know some things we can actually do as we move forward in addressing affordable housing."

The symposium began Thursday afternoon, and is scheduled to continue through tomorrow morning.