Religious group longs to push conversation of affordable housing

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COLUMBIA - A multi-faith organization came together Thursday evening in an effort to give a “voice to the voiceless” when it comes to affordable housing in Columbia.

Faith Voices of Columbia is a nonpartisan organization of faith leaders in Columbia committed to advocating for justice-related issues.

“We are coming at it from a faith perspective and from a perspective of faith leaders,” said Wilkes Blvd. Methodist Church Pastor Brad Bryan. “We have specified our vision to say that access of affordable housing is a matter of human dignity and really the morality of the community. It’s a moral decision that we as a community have to make.”

Bryan said the organization’s focus is to clarify its narrative and spread the word.

“Beyond our clergy table, beyond our just faith leaders, just anybody in Columbia that is ready to get out in council meetings and zoning meetings and do the real work of telling our side of the housing story,” Bryan said.

Phil Steinhaus, CEO of Columbia Housing Authority, said his agency serves the “poorest of the poor.”

“The biggest trend I think we’ve seen is the growing gap between the people who have money and the people who don’t. An increase in poverty in our community,” Steinhaus said.

The Columbia Housing Authority owns 717 units and serves up to 5,700 people at a time.

Steinhaus said another issue is what he feels is Governor Greitens "stacking" Missouri's housing development commissions with his appointees who voted not to allocate low income housing tax credits.

“If you removed the state credits from the equation, now we can only access the federal credits. We estimate this will reduce the number of projects by a third,” Steinhaus said.

Steinhaus said there are thousands of families that need affordable housing and the Columbia Housing Authority is committed to creating more opportunities.

“Everybody deserves fair access to a chance of a home they can call their own,” Bryan said.