Joplin Low-Income Housing Needs Increase

By Felicia Lawrence

Published 04/30 2014 09:44PM

Updated 04/30 2014 10:36PM

JOPLIN, MO.--- Almost three years after the May 2011 tornado, the availability of low-income housing in the zone is still an issue. Leaders of these housing organizations, say the need for affordable and low-income housing has been steadily increasing since May 22, 2011. The number of people living below the poverty level in Joplin is well above the national average. The tornado only added to the need for low-income and affordable housing, making a big problem even larger.

"Rebuilding efforts have taken place and a lot of great things have happened here in Joplin. It's just that we've seen the need for affordable housing grow over that period of time," said Lt. James Curry, Salvation Army. 

Lieutenant James Curry with the Salvation Army says the waiting list for housing assistance is the longest he's seen in several years, they receive an average of 10 calls every day.

"What is that the rents have gone up since the tornado. So, for those people who were used to the 350 to 400 dollar payment a month, is now 600 to 660 dollars a month and they just find that they can't make it anymore," said Lt. Curry. 

Rebuild Joplin is an organization dedicated to building homes for low-income families in the tornado zone. While they used to comfortably rely on grants, three years after the devastating tornado, they are forced to rely heavily on private donations.

"Since Long-Term Recovery Committee is shut down, since Disaster Case Management is shut down, we rely a lot less on grants and a lot more on private donations and fundraising," said Sharon Lindsey, Rebuild Joplin Client Services. 

While some areas of the Joplin tornado zone have been rebuilt, and the hundreds of temporary FEMA homes by the airport are now gone, Rebuild Joplin is still receiving an average of two to four housing assistance applications every week. Client Service Coordinator Sharon Lindsey says the city is also working with Rebuild Joplin to get more families in homes.

"They've got pretty rigorous requirements and some training classes that we have to put some of our workers and things like that through, but once we meet all of those requirements and they're happy with everything, they will help us fund certain projects inside of the disaster zone," said Sharon Lindsey, Client Service Coordinator. 

Patrick Clark, who is a planning and community development specialist with the City of Joplin says they are aware of the area's existing need for low-income housing and are in the process of reviewing a recently conducted housing analysis.

"They're looking to see what the current need is in Joplin, what we can do to address that need and how our current programs outlined in our action plan will help fill that need that's existing within the community," said Patrick Clark, Planning and Community Development. 

The City of Joplin currently has two programs, J-HAP and J-HRP, which are designed to increase homeownership within the tornado zone. The housing study will ensure that these programs are still applicable to the current housing need. The results of that study are still being reviewed and it should be released to the public by the end of May. 

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