Columbia Housing Authority opens brand new homes after renovations

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COLUMBIA  — The Columbia Housing Authority has completed its first fully-renovated public housing project. It is part of the Stuart Apartments project which includes the renovation of 84 housing units built in 1956.

Four families will begin moving back in to their newly renovated homes on Unity Drive as soon as Tuesday. 

The housing units are entirely new, except for the roof and the foundation. All of the units will also feature front and back porches to give families more space.

Many of the updates improved upon the safety of the homes. Constructions crews replaced the floors, updated the electrical system and added vent fans in the kitchen and bathroom. The electric panels used to be located above the stove, which is not allowed under current electrical codes.

Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus said one of the other main concerns of the old units was the cast iron plumbing system, which was often clogged or broken. The furnace and water heater also used to be exposed, which Steinhaus said was worrisome for children living in the homes.

Steinhaus said the renovations for the homes will preserve them for another 50 years.

"These units were starting to deteriorate and maintenance costs were going up higher and higher, and so if we didn't do something to renovate these units, this resource for our community might have been lost," Steinhaus said.

He said projects such as this one are capable of having a "ripple effect" for neighborhoods that previously have a had a negative reputation.

"When the Columbia Housing Authority makes a significant investment like this in the neighborhood, people are in a nicer neighborhood and they feel more respected and more likely to respect their property," Steinhaus said.

The CHA assists their families in more ways than just providing affordable housing. They have afterschool programs for kids, financial money smart and self-sufficiency classes, a food pantry, transportation services and more.

"We want to do more than just house people. We want to give people an opportunity to get people out of poverty and a way out of poverty," Steinhaus said.

The CHA is also covering the costs of relocation for families who need alternative housing while units are being renovated.

The entire project costs just over $12 million, which comes from federal funding. 

The project is expected to be completed by August or September of 2017. The CHA is also working on renovating all 15 floors of Paquin Tower and so far they have completed floors 2-7. 

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