Skip to Content

City of Columbia continues to explore how to turn vacant properties into affordable housing


The City of Columbia is continuing to look into how it can turn vacant properties into affordable housing, five months after city and community leaders attended a Vacant Property Leadership Institute in Texas.

As a direct result of that institute, Columbia Neighborhood Services Manager Leigh Kottwitz said the city has scheduled court dockets once a month where the office handles property court cases.

"It seems like a small step, but it's enabled our staff to consolidate all those cases and also work efficiently with our prosecutor so that when we have to take an owner to court, we can all have that on our calendar and get in front of the judge at the same time on those issues," Kottwitz said.

She said code enforcement is a large part of how the city has handled vacant property cases, with the city giving multiple notices before they take a property owner to court.

Other ideas being discussed after November's institute include property scoring and enforcing a vacancy tax.

Kottwitz said under property scoring the city would score every residential plot based on its condition. This would allow the city to recognize areas of need and determine where more resources should be spent.

A vacancy tax would create a sort of fee for owners of vacant properties, but Kottwitz said there are some concerns with that because some vacant properties have no clear owner.

ABC 17 News previously reported that other cities that attended November's Vacant Property Leadership Institute have taken six months to three years to implement tools such as property mapping.

Kottwitz said there has been discussion and interest among city and community leaders about how to increase housing in the area, with vacant properties being a part of that.

"Our problem with vacancy is fairly small," Kottwitz said. "The reason it's an important topic for us is that we have a housing shortage here, so every vacant property is one more house that could be occupied by someone who needs housing right now."

In March, Columbia Housing Authority CEO Randy Cole said 1,436 people were on a waitlist for affordable housing in Columbia. Boone County Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick has said Boone County will need 37,000 more housing units by 2050 to keep up with the county's growing population.

This comes as Boone County conducts a housing study, which is expected to be completed in the fall. Its main goal is to address the housing challenges in the county and develop ways to improve the housing stock. The study is expected to be completed in the fall.

Boone County residents are encouraged to fill out a housing survey for this study by Sunday.

Love Columbia, a local nonprofit that works to provide affordable housing, has been cheerleading the housing study. Founder and CEO Jane Williams said this is an important step in determining how the community can create enough housing.

"I think Columbia is experiencing a housing crisis along with much of the rest of the nation," Williams said. "And it's going to take all of us working together to address it."

Williams said one thing she believes needs to be done to address housing issues is to reevaluate outdated policies created in a time of suburban expansion, not a housing shortage.

"There are certain restrictive policies that were developed 40-50 years ago that were just needing to be updated so that we can incorporate what's called missing middle housing ... things that are seen as the preferential things to have happen in the communities at this season," Williams said.

She said the Affordable Housing Coalition has a policy development committee developing some of these ideas and working in anticipation of what the Boone County Housing Study will reveal.

Williams also said she thinks vacant properties could be transformed into affordable housing, which is why she believes the city has been discussing that idea.

"Vacant lots could very much be transformed into affordable housing," Williams said.

Kottwitz said she anticipates to learn more from the Boone County Housing Study about potential next steps and what can be done, including input for vacant properties.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content