Proposed change allows additional house on lots in Columbia

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | 5:53 p.m. CST; updated 8:32 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 28, 2014

COLUMBIA — Columbia is facing a shortage of one- and two-bedroom affordable houses. A proposed change in the zoning laws is expected to help remedy the high demand by allowing second homes to be built on residential lots, particularly those located in the central city area.

Homeowners and other interested parties will be able to voice their opinion on the proposed ordinance at a meeting Wednesday.

The proposed changes could help relieve the need for smaller, more affordable units. According to Steve MacIntyre, a planner with the Community Development Department, and Phil Steinhaus, the CEO of the Columbia Housing Authority, there is a high demand for two-bedroom houses and an even higher demand for one-bedroom houses in Columbia.

"It tends to be that most rental units in town are more of the four-bedroom variety, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for single rentals," MacIntyre said.

The Columbia Housing Authority, which helps provide affordable housing for low-income families, has found that 90 percent of the people on their waiting list are looking for a one-bedroom unit, Steinhaus said.

The Columbia Community Development Department and Planning and Zoning Commission have been working to amend a zoning regulation to address the housing shortage for more than a year now.

Currently, R-2 zoned lots can only legally have a single two-family house. Under the plan that will be presented Wednesday, owners would be able to build an additional house on the existing lot, according to the plan on the Community Development page.

In order for the R-2 unit to be re-zoned, the second house must fit somewhere in the yard, where it will not change the view of the lot from the street, be smaller than the primary house and there must only be a single family living on the lot currently, MacIntyre said.

The area most affected would be the central city area, where the long lots make ideal sites for additional houses, MacIntyresaid.

These units would be more affordable than many new developments in town because  the land is already owned, Steinhaus said.

"The accessory dwelling units would serve two purposes," Steinhaus said. "It would create additional one-bedroom units, and it would also allow for some additional infill in the central city area.”

There has been some interest from homeowners to build an accessory dwelling, and they are hoping to answer any concerns at the meeting, MacIntyre said.

"We’re hoping to have a significant turnout from central city neighborhoods since we’ve identified that particular area as the one that would be most affected potentially," he said."

After all the public comments are heard in the meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission will decide which changes to make and then send it to the Columbia City Council for approval, MacIntyre said.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Daniel Boone City Building, conference room 1A/B.

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