Jefferson City Council unanimously endorses housing proposal

The Jefferson City Council unanimously adopted a resolution of support for a housing proposal’s quest for funding assistance.Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) will be vying for state low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) and disaster recovery funds the city has access to from the 2019 tornado in hopes of constructing a 40-unit project. The proposal was deemed “Stronghold Landing,” inspired by the #JCStrong hashtag that emerged following the tornado.The proposal was unveiled during a meeting of the Capital City Housing Task Force last week, though its initial 56-unit blueprint was pared down in order to save disaster recovery funding for another attempt next year, city officials said.CMCA’s CEO Darin Preis said the agency has been active in the area for decades and is working on developments in several counties. While some in the community have expressed concerns about the use of Section 8 vouchers for housing in lower-cost developments, Preis said there were a total of 450 such vouchers being used across the group’s six-county reach.He noted the city’s housing study, released last year, found four major points of data: affordable housing is vital to growth in lower-wage job sectors, four of the top five local occupations pay less than $35,000 per year, those working the lowest-paid jobs in the city cannot afford the median home prices and that the labor market is largely driven by workers commuting into the city for their jobs.”That study clearly shows a need for additional housing across the spectrum whether that’s homeless shelters to high-income, middle-income homes, and every single thing in between,” Preis told the council Monday evening. “We all have agreed and I think you’re very aware of from that housing study, that there’s a need for housing across the board. Our wheelhouse is workforce and affordable housing.”While a similar attempt last year garnered plenty of discussion among council members, little was said by members outside of a few questions for the developers.Members of the community also addressed the proposal ahead of the vote, with testimony bouncing between Stronghold Landing and an alteration to Monroe Street for more than an hour.Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Plummer said housing was an essential ingredient for economic growth and that other local economic-focused groups, like the Jefferson City Regional Economic Partnership, Manufacturers Roundtable and the Workforce Coalition, were in favor of additional housing options.”Many of you know that the chamber has been highly focused on the housing issue in recent years. We see it as a workforce development issue which is stifling our ability to attract and retain good-paying jobs in our community long term,” Plummer said. “Our belief is that central Missouri Community Action and their development partner have a great deal of expertise in this area.”Ken Thoenen, a local developer and former president of the local Home Builders Association, said he had concerns about CMCA — which is based in Columbia — and its Festus-based general contractor coming in to do work that could be done by locally-based companies.”As they pointed out, the general contractors are from out of town, the management company is from out of town,” he said. “The city should take the time to consider the economic impact of this development, postpone it and see if they can solicit some local people to build this, so the economic impact for this will keep the money more in our community.”Preis said later the plan was to work with local subcontractors under the general contractor.The path toward state money winds through tight deadlines, and both funding mechanisms require either a letter of approval from the mayor or a resolution of support from the Jefferson City Council.The council’s vote gives the project its blessing to pursue both funding pots. Neighborhood Services Supervisor Rachel Senzee said Stronghold’s disaster relief forms must be submitted next week, after which the city will issue a letter of intent. The team must also submit its LIHTC forms to the state Sept. 22.Through LIHTC, the state matches up to 70 percent of the federal credits for the highly-sought after incentives, and prospective developers must reserve a portion of a project’s units for lower-income renters and must maintain the site’s status as low-income housing for 30 years.Last year, CMCA and three other local developers went before the Jefferson City Council with proposals for affordable housing projects, but only moved on following a split vote. Members who voted against supporting the proposals argued they hadn’t been given adequate time to consider the plans.The projects were ultimately rejected by the state commission in their quest for a tax incentive to aid development, with the vote and letters of opposition — which only the local projects received across 115 total submissions, according to developers — identified as their downfall by the state.

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