CHA Taking Steps to Renovate Public Housing, Build Apartments
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Housing Authority or CHA is in the process of taking the next steps to be able to renovate some of the city's oldest public housing. At Monday's city council pre-meeting, the CHA presented its plan to secure the low income housing tax credits it would need to fund the renovations.
The CHA applied to HUD's Rental Assistance Demonstration Program or RAD, which will allow the CHA to receive more stable and predictable funding. Currently, HUD provides an operating fund and a capital fund for projects, but the amount of money the CHA receives is prone to fluctuating annually due to federal budget cuts. With more reliable funds available through RAD, it will make it easier for the CHA to acquire the low income housing tax credits needed to renovate units.
Some of the public housing in Columbia was built in the 1950s and is in dire need of updates. Many units have unreliable plumbing and sinking slab floors. They don't have drier hook-ups and washers are typically put in right next to the stoves. It will be more cost-efficient for the CHA to renovate the units than to rebuild them completely.
The housing authority's CEO Phil Steinhaus said it is crucial to take care of the community's public housing. He calls it a vital resource to the city.
"If we're going to break the cycle of poverty where's the first place you want to start? You want to put a roof over a family's head. It's kind of hard to tell them to go find a job or go back to school or do anything else if they don't know where they're going to lay their head that night," Steinhaus said.
There is certainly a need for public housing in Columbia. The CHA serves nearly 2,000 families in Columbia and its complexes are at nearly 100 percent capacity with hundreds on waiting lists. Tenants in public housing must be income eligible and pay 30 percent of their household income toward rent. They also pay for their own utilities.
To address the need for affordable housing, the CHA also hopes to build a new 42-unit apartment complex near Sexton and Garth. The CHA would rent out the units at an affordable price based on the market. Tenants would pay the entire rent payment, but would have to be income eligable to live in the complex. In order to fund the construction of the apartments, the CHA would need to get additional low income housing tax credits.