With federal money granted to it a year ago by the city, the Columbia Housing Authority will build subsidized homes on two central-city lots it bought for $60,000.
Two neglected houses with aging white siding and yards littered with old tires and other debris stand on property on McBaine Avenue, just north of Ash Street. The houses and the wood fence that surround them stick out on a street of mostly well-kept small houses in the First Ward neighborhood.
The authority plans to tear them down and construct three new houses that will be sold by the housing authority, most likely to current residents of public housing or Section 8 participants, director Doris Chiles said. People interested in buying the houses should contact the housing authority.
The city granted $300,000 to the authority last February after a similar project on Wyatt Lane Acres failed because nearby residents protested that the low-income housing would devalue their homes. The money came from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Half that grant went to rental-assistance programs, while the other half is being used for the project on McBaine Avenue and the purchase of property for homeownership.
City Planning Director Roy Dudark said Columbia has been working for years to obtain funding for nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing in the central city. Private builders can’t construct homes without a subsidy because they can’t break even, much less make a profit, Dudark said. The older, mostly rented housing in the central city lowers the appraisal on new houses built in the area.
If organizations can afford to build in the area with the help of subsidies, though, the new houses can increase property values throughout the neighborhood and provide incentive for neighbors to repair and take better care of their homes, Dudark said.
Right now the newly purchased lots on McBaine Avenue are beginning to undergo routine environmental testing. Chiles said she can’t project when the houses will be finished.
The city is paying $25,000 per house, and the rest of the cost will be paid by the homeowners through mortgages, Chiles said.
The authority hasn’t pinpointed any other property to buy; Chiles said it would wait on data from the city’s housing market survey before buying more lots.