Almeta Crayton convenes roundtable to discuss affordable housing

Crayton is tired of waiting for a solution to a problem she says has gone unsolved for too many years.
Monday, October 15, 2007 | 6:18 p.m. CDT; updated 7:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — More than 20 people are expected to attend a roundtable Thursday to discuss the obstacles that keep new affordable housing development from becoming a reality in Columbia, First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton said.

“We’re going to look at all the angles of this,” Crayton said. “We want the public to come clean and tell us what they’re going to do about affordable housing.”

Crayton is tired of waiting for a solution to a problem she says has gone unsolved for too many years. For the past 18 months, the Affordable Housing Committee has been meeting with the goal of putting together a recommendation for the Columbia City Council, complete with an unscientific survey. But in the face of 100 families’ possible displacement from Ed’s and Sunset trailer parks, which were annexed and zone for commercial development in August, some people are getting impatient.

“We have been waiting on them and waiting on them and waiting on them,” Crayton said, “We’re closing down those units (at Ed’s and Sunset), and we still don’t have anywhere for them to go.”

One of the problems the Affordable Housing Committee has had is determining exactly what kind of housing needs to be built. To get oriented on the issue, the committee is surveying renters. The survey’s usefulness is subject to debate, because it was written and distributed on a next-to-nothing budget by committee members.

“It not something we’re claiming is statistically significant,” said Community Development Coordinator Tom Lata. “It’s just to make sure we’re on the right track.”

The 37-question survey can be found online on the main page of the city’s Web site. It was re-posted on Friday, having been removed mistakenly and absent from the site for an unknown length of time, Lata said. It is also available on paper at Columbia Public Library, the Columbia Housing Authority, Central Missouri Community Action and the city’s Planning and Development Department at the Daniel Boone City Building.

So far, more than 200 people have filled out the survey, though not all answered every question.

Regardless of what type of housing needs to be built, Crayton is willing to bet it’s going to take more money than the city can afford to spend. Part of her goal for the roundtable is to find sources of federal money. Representatives of U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond will attend the event to offer ideas, Crayton said.

“It’s not just going to be between developers and the city,” Crayton said. “We’re going to go outside of developers and the city to the people who know where the dollars are. ...”

Barbara Hoppe, Laura Nauser and Jerry Wade are among the council members expected to attend, Crayton said. Also among the 20 people who responded to Clayton’s announcement are Lata, Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy and members of the Affordable Housing Committee. Crayton hopes that the public will attend, too.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said he will be unable to attend because he will be giving a previously scheduled speech in Washington, D.C. City Manager Bill Watkins said he will try to make it but might not know until the last minute whether it’s possible.

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