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Area Groups Come Together to Discuss Expanding Affordable, Fair Housing Solutions

Dr. David Knox with the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights giving the official proclamation that April is designated Fair
Dr. David Knox with the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights giving the official proclamation that April is designated Fair

With federal budget cuts and longer waiting lists for housing programs, many experts say it is becoming more difficult for people to find safe and appropriate housing.  KSMU's Theresa Bettmann has more on a collaborative program held Wednesday.

Rows of tables representing Habitat for Humanity, Arc of the Ozarks, Abilities First, and Affordable Home Development lined the entrance inside the Library Center in Springfield on Wednesday. 

Shelby Butler is access coordinator with the Southwest Center for Independent Living.  She says the networking event was the first of its kind locally.

"We wanted to choose a day in April to bring people together to talk about housing in general.  And we wanted to focus on expanding affordable housing options for everyone in our community," Butler says.

Community Partnership says that since February of this year they have had nearly 5,967 people in Greene, Christian and Webster counties seek affordable housing guidance through the Affordable Housing Center website.

The event was part of National Fair Housing Month.  A special proclamation was delivered by Dr. David Knox from the Springfield Mayor's Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations, officially declaring April Fair Housing Month for Springfield. Tours of the new one-stop-shop Springfield Affordable Housing Center on Central Street were also available.

"What we realized when discussing that is there are a lot of people in the housing industry—landlords, managers, developers—and we also realized there were providers of people.  We thought it would be great to have everyone come together and talk about how we can partner. To come up with new ideas and solutions and get to know each other," says Butler.

Many experts suggest that housing costs should be 30 percent or less of a person's income.  However, Butler says that for many groups, including seniors, those with disabilities, or single parents, that much is still a burden.

"If you don't have a safe place to call home, everything else in your life is out of balance.  There are people who are living on the streets and going without.  There are people who are fleeing domestic violence.  There are shelters that meet that need but there are a lot of people who are living in housing that's not adequate. It's not accessible to their needs and it's not affordable, and they're one step away from becoming homeless," says Butler.

Butler says she hopes that partnerships resulting from Wednesday's event will continue well into the future.  The Fair Housing Act became law in April 1968 making it illegal to discriminate in housing transactions based upon race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability or family status.

For KSMU News, I'm Theresa Bettmann.