Columbia public-housing residents share concerns with housing authority

Jul 26, 2012

Columbia public housing residents are raising concerns about the Columbia Housing Authority’s plan to renovate current housing and add more units as part of its long-term strategic plan.

At a meeting Wednesday night hosted by Grass Roots Organizing, Columbia Public Housing CEO Phil Steinhaus discussed possible renovations to current public housing units as part of its plan.

The Columbia Housing Authority has hired outside consultants to research a long-term revitalization plan to renovate old public housing buildings and add additional units. Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus says the housing authority wouldn’t go forward with the plan unless public housing residents support it.

Several residents spoke up to express concerns about the funding for the project and about the transition plan for residents. The strategic plan calls for part of the funding to come from low-income tax credits for private investors. The housing authority would apply to the Missouri Housing Development Commission for tax credits. Jo-Ann Mitchell is a resident of public housing on Unity Drive. She says residents are worried about private investors’ influence over the properties, and whether the housing will remain public housing. 

 “It’s a possibility that private companies are trying to get in here,” she says, “and if they do that’s going to change the whole cycle. We don’t need that. That no longer is the point of public housing.”

Michele Duffe is a consultant with N.D. Consulting group. “I think what they’re really concerned about is when is this going to happen, how is it going to affect me, and if I want to move back into a unit that’s just like the one I left it except greatly improved,” he says. “ I think that if we keep giving them those messages then they don’t have to worry about how it’s done and where the money comes from.”

Steinhaus says he wants to repair the plumbing and make other improvements to current housing buildings, starting with units on Lincoln, Unity and Worley.

Unity resident Stephanie Scott says the improvements are overdue, and she hopes public housing residents will support the plan: “I just want them to see the whole in what housing is trying to accomplish for them and do the best to put away that insecurity.”

Steinhaus says the Columbia Housing Authority welcomes public comment at future meetings.