High demands for Columbia Public Housing

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Housing Authority said Tuesday it is working to renovate Oak Towers as well as other public housing complexes that could hold more people needing one-bedroom apartments. It's in response to the need for public housing growing, but being met. New, high-end apartment buildings are being constructed in downtown Columbia, but many people who need a place to live cannot afford them.

Columbia Public Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus said the public housing waiting list is about full. Steinhaus said there is a big demand for one-bedroom apartments. High-end one-bedroom apartments in downtown are leasing for more than the Columbia Housing Authority can fund, Steinhaus said.

Steinhaus said the people on the waiting list that are in need of apartments such as these are at or below 30-60 percent of the median family income, and cannot afford the rent.

He said the Columbia Public Housing Authority would pay no more than $600 for a one-bedroom per month. Columbia Public Housing residents would then only pay a portion of the $600.

"We are applying for low-income housing tax credits from the Missouri House Development Commission, which will provide much needed funds to help us make the renovations," Steinhaus said.

He said they just don't have enough adequate funding to build or supply more public housing at this time.

Steinhaus said the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has not helped with the funding needed to meet the demand for public housing.

He said there's a need for more public housing to create diversity in Columbia.

"I think the key to a vibrant community is to have diversity in housing," Steinhaus said. "We need to have housing that is priced in the right price range for a variety of people with different income levels. And just as our community thrives on diversity, we need diversity in our workplace, we have diversity in our school." He added, "We need to have diversity in our neighborhoods too."

Steinhaus said this diversity can be created by building more public housing and providing opportunities for people at a lower income level.

"We need to have a way those needs are met, so we aren't just building one type of housing, but we're actually building a nice mix of housing that meets the growing needs of our community," Steinhaus said.

The City of Columbia's community development manager said the city funds two to four homes per year for low income residents and the city funds affordable rental housing around town. She said the city supports affordable housing through tax credits and other projects.