The Missourian solicited written answers to a set of 11 standardized questions to the four candidates for the Columbia City Council. Pat Fowler, Greg Pierson and Mark Anderson are seeking a three-year term representing the First Ward, while Matt Pitzer is running unopposed for a second term representing the Fifth Ward.
Here are their answers to the following question:
The city has several ongoing affordable housing programs and is working with the Columbia Community Land Trust to develop small amounts of affordable housing in the central city. What more do you think the city can and should do to increase the availability of affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents?
Pat Fowler: I am saddened by the challenges we face in the First Ward with many of our lower-income residents being pushed out into the far reaches of the city because of the lack of affordable housing here. This means people who most need services are further away from those services and exacerbates the transportation challenges for the most vulnerable among us. The First Ward is home to the city's largest inventory of affordable housing, some of it in need of upgrades to make us resilient and forward thinking where climate action and adaptation efforts are concerned. Imagine how we could lower our carbon footprint if we restore and refurbish the central city housing stock we have now instead of demolishing, transporting and burying it in the landfill, only to release even more CO2 into the atmosphere by trucking newly manufactured materials to a house lot and building anew.
Greg Pierson: We should continue to support the Columbia Community Land Trust and its efforts to expand affordable housing options and low-income home ownership. Increasing marketing and awareness efforts, combined with concentration of resources, should yield numerous benefits for our citizens. Additionally, we should support the work of the Columbia Housing Authority by increasing the resources available to their various programs and enhancing their efforts to promote their services. We also must ensure that rental properties are accessible and affordable and that tenants are protected. We must continue to strengthen city regulations of property management and owner-tenant relations, and ensure that property owners are properly maintaining their property, or that tenants are assisted in that process themselves. Finally, it is important that we continue to monitor and control the impact that short term rental properties have on the housing market here in Columbia.
Mark Anderson: I think you could give developers a tax incentive to come down and build in the First Ward but only two- to three-bedroom houses. You would figure out a way to minimize cost and get it down to about $130,000 or $140,000. You have to look at what is available if you get access to tax incentives and other nonprofit entities to create that, but it is possible for that to happen.
Matt Pitzer: We should encourage more dense development in areas near existing services (job centers, grocers, pharmacies, etc.) and also consider transit-oriented development along our limited transit corridors. Almost every community in the country struggles with the affordable housing issues. There is no obvious answer, but limiting the places where we are willing to consider denser development also limits our options.