COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The City of Columbia approved the Fiscal Year 2024 budget Monday night, which includes the creation of a new Housing and Neighborhood Services department.
City documents show the department will house two divisions, including the Office of Neighborhood Services and Volunteer Programs. The Community Development Block Grant will also report to the new department.
City councilman Don Waterman said the new department is a combination of divisions from existing departments to help streamline the process when it comes to housing issues in the city.
In a statement, city spokesperson Sydney Olsen said the city has recognized the need for affordable housing in Columbia.
"The City has created this new department to focus solely on the housing needs in Columbia," Olsen said. "Instead of housing being a portion of the focus within the Community Development Department, this new department will allow staff to focus their efforts on it entirely."
ABC 17 previously reported the proposed budget for this new department is $1,598,755, with an anticipated budget of $1,486,600.
Show Me Central Habitat for Humanity director of community outreach Ashley Switzer said the organization is excited for this new department.
"We can focus a little bit more on the needs of our community members and what housing can look like for all of the populations of Columbia," Switzer said. "I'm really excited to see that investment."
Show Me Central Habitat for Humanity is currently in the middle of their Blitz Build event, which involves volunteers building four houses in 10 days. Switzer said the organization sees more than 100 applications every year for their housing program, and affordable housing is a big need in the community.
"We just have a lot of different groups in need of different types of housing, and it's really important to look at that," Switzer said. "A lot of our workforce is in need of housing that they can actually afford."
City documents show a department head will need to be hired for the new Housing and Neighborhood Services Department. Olsen said the city will begin advertising for the position in October and will conduct a nationwide search.
She said the director's role will include working with the divisions within the department, reviewing housing needs in the community and determining the staff and resources that are needed to help the department become successful.
"We are excited for this new initiative and what it will bring for those residents wanting to call Columbia home," Olsen said.
"There are lots of people in Columbia that just need good housing," Switzer said. "Being able to have a place to go that's localized, that all of the different community partners that are already focusing on affordable housing can go to, and a place for the community to come and share what they actually need, I think that's so important."