Columbia's housing programs division looks to educate public on affordable housing

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia's Housing Programs Division is inviting the public to the "Fostering Inclusive and Equitable Neighborhoods" event on Thursday. 

The event will include academic and practical insights for building public will for advancing Columbia's affordable housing and community development efforts. Dr. Tiffany Manuel, a nationally recognized figure in the affordable housing, community development and public will fields, will speak.

Randy Cole, Columbia's Housing Program's manager, said what makes Dr. Manuel successful in her craft is her ability to look beyond the data.

"[Dr. Manuel] knows data; she knows need; she knows data analysis," Cole said. "But what was very striking to me was also she knew the ground level work and the trenches. She was very pragmatic and understood the connection between what data is telling you and then what political will and reality is telling you at the ground level."

Cole also said focusing just on data is a mistake when dealing with affordable housing and public will, as well as both's relationship with equity.

"When you are talking about building public will, sometimes talking about just the data isn't enough," Cole said. "You really need to talk about what inspires people and what work is working well and how we come together around common goals."

So how does housing become affordable? Cole said it's about lessening the gap between the cost of building the housing and what someone can afford based off of income and type of job. 

"The only way we create affordable housing in our community is through subsidizing the gap between what it costs to build housing and what someone can actually afford that needs that housing," Cole said. 

The City of Columbia also evaluates past performances, hoping to grow and learn from years prior.

"[The city] adjusts its funding priorities to match annual priority needs identified by the public," according to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) & HOME Annual Action Plan report found on the city's website. "Estimated costs are also associated with each production goal to ensure that goals are realistic and achievable. 

Fostering Inclusive and Equitable Neighborhoods will begin at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.