The state Housing Commission has approved a proposal by State Treasurer Clint Zweifel aimed at spurring development of long-term housing for victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking.

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel

The plan adds survivors of such situations to the definition of “special needs” individuals. Housing projects that benefit special needs individuals receive one-third of state and federal low-income housing tax credits. The change could spur development of long-term housing specifically for those survivors.

In fact, Jennifer Carter Dochler with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said it looks like it already has.

“There’s a partnership in Springfield that is moving forward and interested in this partnership and [the Commission] had a developer workshop in Kansas City where [the Coalition] presented, and we’ve had a developer follow-up with us after that also wanting to find out more information, as she is interested in her top story of a four-story building being designated for victims of domestic violence,” Dochler told Missourinet.

The “partnerships” she refers to would be between a developer and a lead referral agency, such as a domestic violence shelter that an individual in question has been working with. A developer could designate units in a complex, or an entire complex, to be for victims who have been working with a shelter or agency in the area.

Zweifel says the approval is “historic,” and will give shelters one more tool to offer assistance to people trying to escape abusive situations.

“Helping domestic violence survivors is more than just building four walls,” said Zweifel. “It requires an in-depth approach to making sure that they have access to counseling services, health care services, job training services so that they can gain the independence economically, financially that they need.”

Dochler says one hope is that the development of long-term housing will eventually free space in shelters in the state, who for years have had to turn away victims because they are full.

Since special needs housing became possible in 2011, approximately 1,000 beds have been created around the state to help that population. Dochler is hopeful another 1,000 beds can be created specifically for survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking.

She says interested developers can contact the Housing Commission, and the Coalition to find out what agencies in their areas could be partnered with.