City reveals plan to fight rising housing costs

The 2020-24 consolidated plan will be implemented over the next five years to combat the trend.

To combat increasing housing costs, Columbia’s Housing Programs Division has developed a plan to be implemented over the next five years.

According to the Columbia Missourian, the 2020-24 consolidated plan involves spending $5.3 million on programs belonging to three categories. The categories are homelessness, rental assistance and homeownership/home rehabilitation.

Randy Cole, housing programs manager for the city, played a role in developing the plan. He said the rising home prices in the city is reflective of trends happening on the national level, including new buyers entering the market and putting pressure on it.

“You have a lot of pressures on the market from a demographic standpoint,” he said. “ A lot of baby boomers are downsizing their homes and oftentimes living in smaller homes. A lot of people in the upper years of Generation X felt the pinch from the housing market crisis of 2008 and [now] went back into renting … because things are better.”

In addition to demographic trends, Cole said market trends and policy trends are also at play. For example, due to factors like tariffs and recent natural disasters, the costs of raw materials needed for construction have increased.

The plan will address these issues in various ways, including assisting first-time homeowners with up to $10,000 of down-payment assistance, funding the development of affordable housing and establishing a 24-hour resource center for the city’s homeless population.

Cole said the homelessness measures will be important for helping people find stability in their personal lives.

“In the past, a lot of homeless shelters or programs wouldn’t serve people who were intoxicated or had criminal issues or had some of those personal issues,” he said. “But people are recognizing that you can’t solve those problems without a home.”

Additionally, Cole said he plans on continuing his efforts to rectify racial disparities in homeownership.

“We started the Columbia Community Land Trust and we fund nonprofit developers that partner with the land trust to build new single-family homes,” he said. “We try to market those to the communities we’re trying to serve.”

MU economics professor Saku Aura said he doesn’t think the rising home prices in Columbia will be a long-term problem.

“I truly don’t believe that there could be a long-run appreciation trend that would continue for many years because the incentives to build and develop will become so large that it will self-correct,” Aura said.

However, he said he believes that the increased rent might take longer to go back to normal because, at this point in time, outside investors may not be willing to speculate that the university’s upward blip in enrollment is a trend.

He said he thinks the rental market in Columbia can be divided into three segments. First is the “the student market,” which constitutes student housing complexes. Second is the “the short-term rental market,” which is composed of duplexes primarily occupied by graduate students. Finally, there’s the “market for low-to-moderate income individuals” who generally are longtime Columbia residents.

Aura said it’s hard to speculate on the future of the first segment, as it largely depends on future enrollment and the MU’s investments into new housing. Furthermore, he said supply is meeting demand in the second segment.

He is mostly concerned about rent for the third segment, but he said he is confident with the 2020-24 consolidated plan’s ability to address it.

“I think some of the programs will address that because it’s a market where at least some of the potential tenants use different types of public assistance and need rent guarantees to be able to rent in the first place,” he said.

Off-Campus Student Services representative Kristen Temple helps advise students on the components of living in an off-campus building, like signing a lease and budgeting.

Temple said one of the most important things students can do in the face of rising housing and rent prices is be educated consumers.

“[We want] to get the word out to students about the things they need to think about and work through before they enter into a lease or a contract,” she said.

Temple said she encourages students to use the advising resources offered to them by the Off-Campus Student Services office to ensure they’re making good decisions when searching for off-campus living.

“Our office is important because we can have individual conversations with students about their priorities and what’s important to them,” she said.

Edited by Ben Scott | bscott@themaneater.com

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