Affordable-housing obstacles studied

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:47 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

Strengthening public policy and planning will help Columbia overcome affordable housing obstacles, according to a city consultant’s final report about Columbia’s housing market.

Dallas-based J-Quad and Associates presented its final report to the Housing Steering Committee on Tuesday. The firm mainly used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and from city or local housing agencies to compile the report.

“What’s happening now is if there is affordable housing, it just happens,” J-Quad managing partner James Gilleylen said. “There hasn’t been a set of strategic steps set out.”

Creating more precise public policy would help the city fight neighborhood resistance to affordable housing projects by giving the City Council something to point to when residents complain. Too few people have too much influence on affordable housing projects, according to the report. The recent history of the council striking down these proposals, such as the Wyatt Lane Acres project, deters developers from pursuing the projects.

The firm also suggested that the city offer incentives to developers to build with handicapped accessibility in mind for the city’s growing elderly population.

City planner Roy Dudark said in addition to a clear public policy, it’s necessary to make neighborhood opposition groups understand the critical need for affordable housing. He pointed to the firm’s recommendation to add amenities, such as landscaping, to housing projects to benefit the entire community.

“If done well, there’s no reason the project can’t be an asset,” Dudark said.

To provide more options, the firm suggests that the city make downtown a viable housing market by renovating old buildings and developing mixed-use housing, which consists of structures with a business on the bottom and residences on the higher floors. The city could help pay for projects by applying for federal funding.

Other key housing issues are addressed in the firm’s report. Dudark said the next step is to condense the market study considerably and then for the committee to set priorities from the firm’s recommendations. The committee plans to meet again March 30.

The presentation of the report can be seen on the Columbia Channel for the next four or five days, and copies of the full J-Quad report will eventually be available at the Planning Department and at the Columbia Public Library, Dudark said.

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