High demand, low supply of rental units in Columbia

High demand, low supply of housing...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The city of Columbia grows at about 2.5 percent annually, doubling in size about every 20 years. With the growth in population comes a decrease in available, affordable housing. 

"Most of the new units that we’ve seen, unless it’s been planned and designated around being affordable housing, has been in that higher end market," Columbia City Councilman Michael Trapp said.

Trapp said a lot of residents don't realize the city government really doesn't have a lot of say in which type of residential properties get built. 

"Developers make decisions on what kind of products they’re going to develop and bring on to the market," Trapp said. 

Nationally, there has been a shift away from homeownership and toward renting. For millennials, the housing crisis paired with a desire for a more urban living experience has driven where developers build. 

"High-rise apartment buildings in downtown is a relatively new phenomenon," Trapp said. "But people should know there is a demand for those units and there continues to be a strong demand for all residential units." 

Rise apartments on Ninth Street downtown is an example of demand driving development. 

Trapp also said from a councilman's perspective, the city should be working to find more ways to densify its population instead of meeting housing demands by continuing to sprawl the city wider and wider. 

"We need more infill development," Trapp said. "We need to grow up and densify. We need to find ways that more of us can live in the same amount of space. If we meet that demand through sprawl, then the city gets larger and harder to serve with transit, and police and fire and sewer and electric because those things are governed less by population density than by area.”

Trapp said other cities have a smaller footprint for the same number of people. He said Columbia policymakers have erred on the side of quality of life over trying to control the growth of the city.

“Neighbors always want the largest lots and the least number of houses to protect their own property values,” Trapp said. "And we do these incremental tiny decisions that benefit each individual location at the sacrifice of the city as whole. And we do this again and again and again and then we all bemoan the final result that we have this sprawling city that’s really hard to serve and it’s hard to plow snow and we can’t get the neighborhood roads cleared because there are so many of them and they cover such a vast amount of territory. So we really have to make wise and prudent decisions."

Housing prices in Columbia are also relatively high, likely because of the high demand and low supply. Trapp said most of the renters in town are considered cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities. 

Trapp also said the most in-demand housing units are one-bedroom spaces.

"So we do have a big need, especially for one bedroom-units," Trapp said. "Even folks who are able to afford an apartment might not be able to find one because there’s just not a lot of that product."


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