'Do what needs to be done' — Nearly 100 residents turn out for meeting on Springfield housing issues
Last fall, Springfield City Council voted to spend $256,000 in taxpayer funds on a housing study. The idea is to improve Springfield neighborhoods and promote homeownership.
Most of the spaces in Springfield Art Museum’s new parking lot were full last night as roughly 100 city residents, from the homeless to the well-heeled, turned out for a meeting on community housing issues.
The forum got a little wonky at times as an internet-based survey for attendees called the Mentimeter faced some technical difficulties.
“I don’t want you all to worry too much about the Mentimeter, that’s just an extra activity to get some extra information,” said APD Urban Planning analyst Reginald White.
The Georgia-based consultants from APD were hired by the city and came to Springfield to hear from residents about problems and opportunities in their neighborhoods.
Phyllis Netzer lives in West Central. She’s been a homeowner and neighborhood association member for many years. KSMU asked her what she hoped the city's taxpayer-funded housing study would accomplish.
“My concern has nothing to do with $250,000, which may or may not need to be spent," she said before the meeting began. "My concern is with wages and people being able to afford to fix up their houses and do what needs to be done.”
She told KSMU that low Springfield-area salaries and high costs for healthcare and general family life lead to situations where many of the city’s homes don’t get the maintenance they need.
Isabelle Jimenez-Walker — who ran for city council and narrowly lost to former Zone 1 Councilwoman Angela Romine back in 2021 — is on the steering committee for the housing study. She said she heard recently from a local landlord association that some 60 percent of Springfield’s population is now made up of rental tenants, not homeowners. That wasn’t the case as recently as 2010.
She told KSMU that if the city passed an ordinance providing for regularly occurring rental home inspections, it would help keep the community’s housing stock from deteriorating.
“We are going to try to work on something that works for everybody, Jimenez-Walker said. "You know, that works for the tenants, that works for the landlords, that works for everybody — and it’s not too intrusive, and it’s not too expensive.”
The APD consultants working with the city said another community housing meeting would take place in June, and a third one in September, before they hand off a final report in October.