COLUMBIA — The city is using federal money to buy four central-city properties that officials say they eventually could use to provide affordable housing.
The properties include three homes at 106, 108 and 110 W. Sexton Road that are owned by the Intersection, plus a home at 102 E. Sexton owned by Jennifer and Jesse Dack. The Intersection properties once were part of a plan by Covenant Community Development to build a grocery store, apartments and other retail space. That controversial plan, for which the City Council approved appropriate zoning, fell through last year.
Tim Teddy, director of the Columbia Department of Planning and Development, said it remains to be seen precisely what the city will do with the properties, but it will be "most likely affordable housing of some sort, something that serves the neighborhood and the city.”
Teddy said there certainly is a need for housing for people with disabilities, particularly among those with low incomes.
On May 17, the City Council voted to buy the properties, using money from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Act Program, which is intended to stabilize communities affected by the foreclosure crisis. The three Intersection homes will cost $38,610; the Dacks' house will cost $32,670.
The four properties will bring the total to six of homes the city has purchased in the area. It also owns houses at 13 Forest Ave. and 904 Madison St.
“I hope this will leverage other investments and city programs that will improve the neighborhood character,” said Teddy.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program prohibits the city from making a profit from the development.
“It’s clear the goal is neighborhood development,” Teddy said.
In a May 3 report to the council, Teddy said that the city intends to rehabilitate some of the homes to Energy Star standards. He said the department hopes to have that work done within the next year. The Neighborhood Stabilization grant includes $144,889 for rehabilitation work.
Teddy said possible stakeholders in the projects are The Intersection, Grace Covenant Church, Community Housing Options, Centro Latino, neighboring property owners and neighborhood organizations.
The city most likely would issue a request for proposals.
Community Housing Options is a private, nonprofit corporation formed to expand the supply of affordable and accessible housing in Columbia and Boone County.
Group President Homer Page has met with the city officials and representatives of The Intersection and Grace Community Church about moving forward with the project. Teddy said Community Housing Options is interested in constructing affordable housing on the northeast corner of Garth and Sexton.
Page said the project is simply a concept at this point, but he's optimistic something good will come of it and glad the city is moving on plans for the Intersection property that's been in limbo so long.
“It has been a creative approach to a disappointing situation,” Page said. “The Intersection and Grace Covenant Church have been well to think outside the box.”
Pastor Art Dyer of Grace Covenant Church said he last spoke with city officials on the matter six weeks ago. He said that his church's goal is to boost economic development in the neighborhood and that members have discussed partial ownership of the property. Dyer was unaware when the project would begin.
“I’m not sure where things are right now,” Dyer said, adding that he worries that a lack of neighborhood involvement could breed frustration.
“My gut feeling is (that Community Housing Options) hasn’t made much effort to bring in the community,” Dyer said.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Act Program requires that money be committed by Sept. 11, which means there is no time for a “lengthy neighborhood process,” Teddy said.
Dyer said anything the city can do will be better than leaving dilapidated homes in place.
“It could be a spark for the neighborhood.”