Oldest public housing units in Columbia have been restored

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COLUMBIA- The Columbia Housing Authority held an open house and dedication ceremony on Wednesday at Unity Park for the newly renovated Stuart Parker Apartments.

The apartments are the first completed phase of the CHA's project to renovate all 716 units of public housing in Columbia.

The Stuart Apartments were constructed in 1958, making those 84 buildings the oldest public housing stock in Columbia.

Phil Steinhaus, CEO of the housing authority, said, while the complex was being restored, the tenants weren't forced out.

"When we started the project, we stopped filling vacancies when people moved out, so we had enough vacancies to move people out of buildings into vacant units so that we could renovate their units and move them back," he said.

First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin said the restorations were imperative.

"I'm grateful that on days like today, that right here in the First Ward, that there was someone who looked at the condition of our public housing," he said. "They looked at the dilapidated buildings. 50 to 60 years old. They looked at living spaces that were unsafe and dangerous, and inefficient, and they didn't say "that's good enough." They didn't say 'there's nothing that can be done because it's too expensive.' But they looked at the condition of these buildings and they said 'we can do better.'"

The old public housing units were mostly gutted and all new plumbing and electrical was installed along with new floors, cabinets and appliances.

There are two and three-bedroom units available, as well as one-bedroom handicap accessible units.

Columbia's Paquin Tower Apartments were also renovated during the past year.

The construction costs for the Stuart Parker Apartments are projected at  $8.5 million and the construction costs for the 200 Paquin Tower Apartments are projected at $4.5 million.

Both were made possible with federal and state funding. The housing authority participates in the HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration Program, which allows public housing authorities to convert public housing subsidies into Section 8 rental assistance subsidy contracts. The CHA is the first approved RAD conversion in Missouri.

The housing authority is currently in the process of fully renovating the Oak Towers and Bear Creek Apartments. Columbia's Bryant Walkway Apartments will begin renovation next year.