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The Biggest Problem Facing Columbia


Columbia has a housing crisis. We do not have enough housing to meet the needs of our growing population, particularly our low- and moderate-income residents. Low supply coupled with post-pandemic inflation has given rise to extraordinary price increases that have pushed many into homelessness or priced them out of the homeownership market.  

Already in 2024, we have hit two unsettling records. On February 16, Columbia Public Schools reported a record 450 students experiencing homelessness. On February 22, the official Boone County 2024 January home sales statistics report was released with the headline: Columbia hits new record high median & average sales prices. The average home sale price was $410,520 and median price was $375,000!

Renters Are Struggling

According to's latest monthly report, Missouri led the nation in year over year rent increases in January 2024. Other states are seeing rent cool off or even decline, but Missouri's year over year rent increase was 13.18%. 

Since 2019, Columbia rent prices have steadily risen. US Census data shows an increase of 23% for a one bedroom, 19% for a two bedroom, 31% for a three bedroom, and 27% for a four bedroom. Renters must earn $18.54 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, and $24.46 for a three-bedroom.

We currently have an extremely low 5% housing vacancy rate, which is a ten-year low. Landlords can afford to be very selective such that people with any type of barrier or who need to use a housing choice voucher have few options. Our extremely low-income residents who need income-based housing face the challenge of long waiting lists to get permanent housing they can afford.

Generational Impact

The National Eviction Lab reports the leading predictor of eviction in the United States is having children.

Skyrocketing rents have priced families needing larger units out of the market, forcing many families to double up with others or seek shelter in pay-by-the week hotels or in congregate shelters that often house chronically homeless adults. There is rising concern about the generational impact of this increased homelessness.

Ranita Norwood, Columbia Public Schools coordinator of Students Services says transiency has long been cited as the leading cause of poor academic performance.

The CDC recently completed a long-term study of eviction and reported a correlation with child neglect and abuse following a family experiencing eviction. The stress of becoming homeless cannot be overstated. Children not only lose the familiarity of schools and neighborhoods, but they are more likely to be placed in foster care.

Prospective Home Buyers Are Discouraged

Since 2019, the average price of homes in Columbia has increased 45%. There are very few homes on the market for $150,000, the price typically affordable for low to moderate income families. For many, the American Dream of homeownership seems completely out of reach.

How Love Columbia Helps 

Housing instability accounts for two-thirds of the requests Love Columbia receives for assistance. In 2023, Love Columbia served 2,541 households with a range of services that included financial, housing and career coaching and practical and supportive services. This included assisting 302 unhoused households secure permanent housing, preventing 618 households from eviction, and providing emergency hotel stays and transitional housing to 193 households including 246 children.

Love Columbia experienced some “firsts” this past year: 22 families were assisted to relocate outside Columbia to secure housing, and 12 cars were repaired so the owners could continue to live in them. 

To assist prospective home buyers, Love Columbia offers a first-time home buyer program. 74 individuals and couples graduated in 2023. Sixteen have purchased homes, 10 through Habitat for Humanity.

In 2021, Love Columbia started an affordable housing coalition and invites all concerned Columbia neighbors to join monthly meetings focused on education and solution-seeking. The emphasis is on bringing together business, government, and social service sectors. The coalition seeks to find ways to fund and incentivize more housing and address regulations and bureaucracy that prevent or slow the building process.

Staff, volunteers, and clients at Love Columbia ring a joy bell to celebrate individual and community housing successes and milestones. Jane Williams, Executive Director, says, “Though we face heartache and struggle daily, we see God at work and many people regaining hope.”

The Crossing wants to help meet the problem our city is facing. Join us on Easter Sunday to find out how you can make a difference.