SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Community Partnership of the Ozarks is again providing recommendations to the City of Springfield on how to best use federal funding to address its affordable housing crisis.
The non-profit and City Council met on Tuesday to give an update on Springfield’s homeless population, available services, and possible solutions to increasing the city’s affordable housing stock.
CPO estimates Springfield needs more than 14,000 more affordable housing units to be able to functionally end homelessness in the city. CPO’s Vice President Michelle Garand says that number accounts for all very low-, and extremely-low income individuals who are looking for a way out of homelessness, as well as those who are on the brink of living on the streets.
“We have a dynamic of individuals who are trying self-resolve, they are trying to access shelter, they want to enter that system of care, but we just don’t have room for them right now,” says Garand.
There are currently more than 400 active applicants on the waitlist for affordable housing services through CPO. Garand says when there are no affordable rentals for those individuals to move into, it creates a bottleneck on other homeless services CPO offers.
“The goal, again, is Functional Zero. Right now, we have 431 households, and we have no solution. Our shelters are full and we can’t get them into an emergency shelter because they are few and far between,” Garand adds.
She says finding a solution to the affordable housing crisis would spark a chain reaction, freeing up beds in Springfield’s transitional housing facilities, which would then create more space in emergency and crisis shelters.
“We can’t reach functional zero without affordable housing. As I mentioned, we have folks who are in some of those permanent supportive housing programs and have been in there for a long time because we can’t find them an affordable home for them to rent, even though we have money. We’re able to pay for the deposits, even double deposits, even up to 18 months, but we just don’t have the housing stock to make that possible.”
Garand says CPO receives roughly $1 million a year to provide rental assistance for folks in need. The only thing stopping them is a lack of inventory.
“There are lots of ideas out there that would help, but we need to put them together,” says Garand.
CPO says it believes the solution lies in Springfield’s vacant and nuisance properties. It’s recommending the city conduct a Comprehensive Housing Study to determine how available properties may be out there.
“What we would like to know is something that would be street-level data collection that would not only show us which homes are vacant but the condition of the home. Then, work on a plan to address those either vacant units or vacant units to transition them into the affordable housing stock.”
CPO also recommends the city consider opportunities to bank foreclosed properties and add them to the Springfield Community Land Trust. That way, the city is able to retain land a home sits on, then subsidize the price of the home’s rent.
Garand says Springfield non-profits, like CPO or Habitat for Humanity, could also help with renovating or rebuilding homes in order for them to pass HUD inspection.
“I think that’s where the housing study comes into play, because not only do we need to look at that home is vacant, but what is the condition that home is, what is the utility usage,” says Garand.
It will ultimately be up to City Council and other city leaders to decide how federal COVID relief funds will be used to address the root of the problems surrounding homelessness.
The meeting ended Tuesday with Mayor McClure saying Council is still wrestling to find the right approach.
McClure told CPO the city will continue to discuss to find the best solution to increasing affordable housing in Springfield.