Columbia Housing Project Far Over Budget

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COLUMBIA - Homeowner John Allen describes his experience with the Columbia Department of Planning and Development as bittersweet. When Allen's wife suffered a stroke, her doctors said she could not return to a home that was not handicap accessible. So, Allen applied to Columbia's Housing Rehabilitation Program to finance the necessary remodel so his wife could come home.

The federally-funded program makes low interest loans available to low-and-moderate income property owners to make improvements to their homes. The city accepted Allen's application, surveyed the site and estimated the work on his home to cost a total of $35,000, the maximum amount the program will fund. The city initially expected the construction to take two weeks to complete.

However, when the contractor began working on Allen's home in June, he ran into issues like termites and mold damage, which slowed the progress of the construction. The city made a program change to allow for more money to take care of those issues. Allen's loan then exceeded the standard maximum loanable amount.

The contractor removed part of the roof to repair it, when Allen says the city would not give the contractor money to buy the lumber to finish the repair. While Allen's house was open to the elements, Mother Nature turned against him. Rain destroyed nearly all the furniture in Allen's home.

The city had to make yet another program change to allow for funding to repair the rain damage rain to the house. Allen's loan currently totals more than $74,000. This total does not include any funding to replace the furniture destroyed by the rain. Allen says the city repaired other damages caused by the rain, so it seems the city takes responsibility for the rain flooding his home. Allen says it is the city's responsibility to also replace the furniture that was destroyed by the rain.

"All the furniture from the bedrooms and from the living room. In the kitchen we had an electric stove. I tried to plug that in myself and smoke came blowing out everywhere," said Allen.

"They tore off the roof and left all the furniture there and got rain on it. I don't care if it's a brand new house, if it doesn't have any furniture in it, can't live there," he said.

Tim Teddy, Director of the Department of Planning and Development says the department employees made faults in their initial survey of the state of Allen's house.

"I think the department made a fault in surveying the home from the start, not seeing some issues that sometimes hide behind walls. We will look at what happened there to avoid it happening again in the future," said Teddy.

However, Teddy says the department cannot take responsibility for the destruction of Allen's furniture until he submits a formal complaint. At that point, the city will conduct an investigation to see if a city employee is at fault for not protecting the interior of Allen's home.

Allen plans on submitting a formal complaint to prove the city owes him new furniture.