Affordable housing no longer looks like towering apartment buildings, public sector planning expert Tony Perez told those who attended a city-sponsored summit Thursday night.

Perez laid out the need for what he calls more "middle housing," which consists of multiple two- to three-story multifamily units in a walkable neighborhood near amenities such as grocery stores and public transit. 

“It needs to look like a house,” Perez said, according to KOMU reporting. “Multifamily is really only being delivered in one way, and it's big apartment buildings. And big ranges from three stories to more stories.”

The summit was hosted by the city's Housing Programs Division, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and other local partners. The city is planning to spend $4 million to $5 million on affordable and entry level housing initiatives over the next five years, said Randy Cole, manager of Columbia Housing Programs.  

Perez said one of the benefits of the middle housing model is that focusing on walking and public transit instead of cars has the potential to help urban areas solve the problem of limited parking. 

The city is still deciding which affordable housing strategies it will adopt, Brian Toohey, CEO of Columbia Board of Realtors said, adding that Thursday's event explored just one many possible solutions. 

Toohey said it was a chance to "look at some different ideas for what's going on around the country that might help alleviate the affordable housing problem." 

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at

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