COLUMBIA — The Columbia Housing Authority invited public input on the agency's Public Housing Authority Five-Year Plan and its Annual Plan at a meeting Tuesday night.
The highlight of the plans includes a recent contract between the Housing Authority and three consulting companies. The Housing Authority hopes the contract results in more low-income housing in Columbia. At Tuesday's meeting, current residents of Columbia public housing and other attendees expressed concerns about the plan, which could result in the renovation or replacement of existing public housing units.
Michael Pryor, a resident of one of the current public housing units and president of the Housing Authority's Downtown Resident Association, said he has a few concerns about the redevelopment plan with the consulting companies.
"I want to know what their option is," Pryor said. "Are they going to rebuild the houses or remodel them?"
Pryor said he also has concerns about the possible relocation of current residents of the low-income housing area if demolishing and rebuilding is required.
"What are we going to do?" Pryor said. "Are they going to give us vouchers and send us to look for houses ourselves, or will they help us find a new place to live?"
ND Consulting Group, one of the companies entering into the contract, said the Housing Authority will pay all current residents' moving expenses and increased rents if necessary. Consulting group principal Michele Duffe said in an email that tenants might be temporarily moved into some of the Housing Authority's vacant units. She also said that if tenants decide they want to move, they will be given Section 8 vouchers, which will help them pay for their rent.
Shar Korthuis, a Columbia resident, said she read through the proposal that ND Consulting Group handed in to the Housing Authority and is worried about the partnership.
"Do these people have the best interest of the people who live here?" Korthuis said.
Phil Steinhaus, CEO of the Housing Authority, said his organization decided to hire ND Consulting Group because of its extensive experience with community engagement. He said the company has had partnerships with affordable housing in Columbia in the past.
To determine whether current structures will be demolished or renovated, Capital Consultants, Inc., another of the contracted consulting companies, will conduct a physical needs assessment. This entails going to downtown public housing units and examining the conditions of the properties.
The first property that will be renovated or demolished, depending on the physical needs assessment report, will be Stuart Parker public housing, the oldest public housing development in the area. The redevelopment of that property could take up to five years.
The Housing Authority said the revitalization could only take place after completing steps required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These include:
- Comparing the cost of continuing to operate the units as public housing to the cost of providing tenant-based assistance instead.
- An analysis of the property's market value before and after redevelopment.
- A rental market analysis of existing conditions to determine the likely success of using tenant-based assistance for the residents of the public housing development.
- An analysis of the likely impacts of the redevelopment on the community in which it is located.
- A detailed description of the redevelopment plan, as well as the Housing Authority's plans to convert the development and transition residents to tenant-based assistance.
Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.