Wednesday marked one month since Gary Anspach took on the role of Housing Programs manager for the City of Columbia.
His job involves the distribution of Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships program funding to hopefully increase the amount of affordable housing in Columbia — a goal of the city’s 2021 strategic plan.
Anspach took over from Randy Cole, who transitioned away from the city to become the CEO of the Columbia Housing Authority.
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The transition into the new role has been smooth, Anspach said.
“I have hopefully picked up where (Cole) has left off,” he said. “We have had a lot going on right now with our division.”
When Anspach came to the Housing Programs Division, he already had a wealth of knowledge on federal housing programs, Cole said.
“He had a really good background on the issue of homeownership,” Cole said. “That was a thing that really impressed me about his knowledge and background when we first hired him.”
Anspach has a strong foundation of knowledge and is direct about how to get money out to where it’s needed in the community, Cole said.
Political science degree leads Anspach to helping people find homes
Anspach came to Columbia by way of Marceline.
He studied political science at the University of Missouri. His post-graduate work at a variety of social service agencies led to his career helping low- to moderate-income individuals and families make connections to jobs and affordable housing.
“I don’t know that at the time when I was getting my degree that I had a lot of insight into homeownership or housing,” Anspach said. “At that time, I had some internships at the state Capitol in Jefferson City and worked close with some state representatives in terms of the legislative process.”
It was after his jobs with social service agencies that he learned about lending and the real estate process.
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“That really kind of blossomed for me in those roles,” Anspach said. “I don’t know that my original degree ties into that, but it is kind of in the same area when you think about the funding we receive and put out into the community.
“It comes from the federal level, and we deal a lot with federal regulations and different layers of requirements in terms of the grants, so there is some overlap there with my degree and education.”
He started with Central Missouri Community Action conducting job assistance searches.
Anspach started working in the Housing Programs Division in 2015 as a housing specialist. He would leave this role for a short time in March to work as chief financial officer for Missouri’s CDBG program, returning to head the Housing Programs Division after Cole’s departure.
He started as the manager June 21.
Blending old and new ideas
Anspach plans to continue much of what Cole already was working on, but he also will bring elements to the division of what he learned with Missouri CDBG.
He will be researching ways to improve program strategies and efficiencies, he said.
“One of the things we are going to focus on is taking a dive into some of our current strategies, evaluate the effectiveness of our funding in certain projects and programs, and look at the outcomes,” Anspach said. “If we see a program or project that is not meeting local community-identified needs, we want to have the flexibility to shift priorities or strategies into a project that may have a better impact.”
This also includes public-private partnerships. Homeownership programs work closely with local lenders and real estate agents. Discussions also are had with developers when looking at affordable housing opportunities.
“We want to engage what they are seeing in their industries and how can we best tailor our programs, whether it is an internal city program or a project we are funding from a partner agency,” Anspach said.
Community needs are identified through public planning meetings for CDBG and HOME fund allocations, as well as a community-wide survey.
“We collect feedback from citizens all over town about what they feel is the most pressing issue,” Anspach said. “We take that back to the Housing and Community Development Commission so they are aware.
“As our local agencies and partners bring up project proposals, we want them to try to tie those projects and proposals to align with the (identified) community needs.”
How Housing Programs Division helps the community
The Housing Programs Division takes CDBG and HOME dollars from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and distributes them to service agencies like the Housing Authority or Voluntary Action Center to help get people into homes.
“The federal funding we receive, their intended beneficiaries are low- to moderate-income households and individuals,” Anspach said.
These are households where the income is 80% of Columbia’s median family annual income of $43,000, according to Best Places. A chart with more up-to-date data was unavailable from the U.S. Census Bureau by press time.
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Low- to moderate-households make around $34,400 or less to qualify for the various program funds.
“We are looking at underwriting standards for a (home) loan and essentially what we want to ensure is that the loan they are getting for their first home is affordable to them and setting them up for success,” Anspach said.
Stewarding federal funds
The city receives allotments each year from the CDBG and HOME programs. The division then works with the city’s Housing and Community Development Commission on plans for distribution to service agencies.
“We are in the middle of our planning process for funds we will receive next fall,” Anspach said.
Agencies aided include the housing authority, Voluntary Action Center, Central Missouri Community Action, Job Point and Services for Independent Living, among others, he said.
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Another challenge the division is working through is distributing and utilizing coronavirus relief bill and American Rescue Plan funding. The division received a $2.1 million boost from the HOME program.
“That represents about four times what we normally receive on an annual basis, so we have a large planning process we are starting to develop and how we are going to spend those funds,” Anspach said.
This includes figuring out how the funds will be earmarked for partner agencies based on eligibility.
Boost in federal funding
With the significant increase in HOME dollars, there is a path for Columbia to increase its inventory of affordable housing.
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“We have some federal guidelines that require part of our funding to go to certain types of organizations that specialize in the development of affordable residential housing,” Anspach said.
This includes Job Point, CMCA and Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity, Anspach said. Job Point has a program known as YouthBuild where its students learn the construction trade, either residential/commercial or highway maintenance and construction.
Those agencies can apply for HOME funds to develop single-family residences, which then are sold to low- to moderate-income homebuyers.
“The goal of that is to just create more housing in Columbia that would be available for that population,” Anspach said. “That is a big need in the city right now.
“The (American Rescue Plan) funds that will be coming, we can leverage those to try to find solutions to increase that stock of affordable housing.”
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