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Springfield City Council considers expanding policy priority list to include housing

Amy Blansit, right, looks on at construction workers as they renovate a former 'long-term druggy house' into a garage for a Grant Beach home on March 21, 2023.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Amy Blansit with Drew Lewis Foundation, right, looks on at construction workers as they renovate part of a home in Springfield's Grant Beach neighborhood on March 21, 2023.

In a community where homeowners are now a minority — should housing be adopted as one of Springfield City Council’s official priorities?

“We’re kind of at the bottom when it comes to living wages and folks being able to have the means to be able to enter homeownership.”

That’s Councilwoman Monica Horton from northwest Springfield’s Zone 1. This week, she and Council’s other eight members began considering whether to add housing to Springfield’s priority list for local ordinances and public policy.

Some see the housing issue as urgent, in part because a recent study found that almost 60 percent of households in town are renting their homes. That flip away from homeownership took place over the past decade or so.

But housing isn’t on City Council’s current priority list, which includes five other broad-based topics: “quality of place,” working with state lawmakers, “fiscal sustainability and accountability,” “economic vitality” and “public safety.”

“I think the most important thing that we want to land on, potentially, is whether we want this as a standalone housing priority, because currently it’s tucked in under economic vitality," Horton said.

Councilmembers including Hardinger, Jenson, McGull and Simpson said they favored some form of language to encourage homeownership. Members also noted that existing priorities, like quality of place, include some housing-related language. Mayor Ken McClure suggested Council soon take a half-day retreat to review priorities and determine if housing should be on the list.

The debate comes as Council has pursued several housing-related activities in recent years. They approved the Restore SGF project for home improvements in historic areas. The city also did a study, and council passed a resolution, on chronic problems with nuisance properties. Also last year, Springfield asked consultants from Atlanta to conduct an overall Springfield housing study. They found a shortage of some 9,000 rental units for residents with low incomes, indicating a need for more affordable housing.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.