A new task force has formed in the City of Columbia to tackle issues in affordable housing.
“Our goal is to talk about affordable housing solutions in our community, including home ownership and rental. And identify some of the impediments to housing solutions,” said City Council member Tameika Isaac Devine, chair of the new affordable housing task force in Columbia.
The task force was assembled in February, but they had their first meeting in June due to COVID-19.
Devine said she tried to make the group full of diverse experts.
“We have Ivory Matthews from the Columbia Housing Authority, Jennifer Moore from United Way, John Andoh from the Comet, because we know transportation is a big issue as far as where housing is.”
Representatives from SC Appleseed Legal Justice, Midlands Housing Trust Fund, and Homeless No More are in the group, too. They’ve also included a resident currently living in affordable housing.
The first thing the task force is tackling is educating people on what affordable housing is and who it serves.
“Unfortunately, there is a stigma in not just our community but all communities around affordable housing. So, we want to educate people on what affordable housing is.” Devine said, “right now everybody is thinking about our essential workers. You’re talking about our nurses, teachers, medical support staff and restaurant staff and how important they are and essential to our lives. But the salaries that most of those people make, put them in the bracket to need affordable housing. And if there’s no affordable housing in our city, then they need to drive miles to come into work.”
On top of building more affordable housing in Columbia, the group wants to preserve what the city already has.
“Columbia has a history of gentrification. If you look at where the university is and where it expanded, there are historic, primarily African American neighborhoods that were completely changed because of that. We are mindful of that and we’re trying to address that,” Devine said.
Many other cities are facing an affordable housing crisis. Devine hopes Columbia can avoid that in the future.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn lessons from other cities like Charlotte and Atlanta and other cities that have had these challenges more recently, and be able to take what we learn from them and say “okay how do we make sure that doesn’t happen here?””
The task force will meet for the second time on July 14.
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