Park Avenue Housing Options
The first option is to renovate the housing, the second is to demolish it. Residents don't understand why the task force is even considering tearing down their homes. They say there's nothing wrong with them. Debbie Calvin, a resident of the governmental housing, has lived in her apartment for five years, and she says it's in good condition. So why is the Columbia Housing Task Force thinking about tearing it down?
"That's what I'd like to know. I don't know why they are," Calvin says.
The Columbia Housing Task Force hasn't decided whether to tear down the units. Richard Mendenhall, the task force chairman, says that the units are perfectly livable.
"Every place where anybody's living out there has to be habitable. That's the housing authority's job. You know, it ain't a question whether or not somebody can live in the existing residences that they live in," Mendenhall says.
He compares the houses to old cars.
"I guess my analogy would be, you got an older car, how long do you keep throwing money in to fix it, versus is there an opportunity or possibility to buy a new car. That's it. Now, maybe that's not a good analogy because it's easy to get out of one car and move in another and it's not so easy to move out of this home and wait until it's rebuilt and move into another one because the time frame's longer," Mendenhall says.
The Task Force is considering six plans for the housing units. Five of the six plans include complete demolition of the 70 units like Calvin's. There's only one plan that considers rehabilitating the 70 units without demolition. The task force hired a development agency that came up with these six options ranging from an estimated $8.5 million for rehabilitating all of the units to $20.7 million. The five more expensive options are the ones that include complete demolition. The task force asked the development agency to come up with a few more options but, last month, Mendenhall said simply rehabilitating the units wasn't favored at the time. Mendenhall stresses the task force hasn't decided on anything yet, and wants to make sure residents can voice their opinion.
"It isn't like we haven't been touching base with the residents," Mendenhall says.
But Debbie Calvin says that's simply not true, and she says the few times residents have been invited to meetings and asked questions, they've never gotten a straight answer.
"They weren't answering directly. They were trying to get around the questions," Calvin says.
A survey of the residents shows 86% oppose demolition, and 74% say they don't feel included in the planning and decision-making process. They also rated their homes on a scale of one to ten. The average score was about 7.6. Mendenhall says he didn't know about the survey.
"I haven't seen the survey, don't know the validity of it," Mendenhall says.
Right now, Park Avenue residents and the Columbia Housing Authority Task Force don't seem to be on the same page. But the Task Force assures residents they'll be able to return to their homes, whether they're simply renovated, or a new structure altogether. Demolition, however, is still a strong possibility. The Task Force will meet Thursday at 1:00pm to see the additional options the development agency came up with. The Task Force invites Park Avenue residents to attend the meeting.