Bukuru Nihabose doesn’t like the fireworks in America, but she feels safe here.
When she left Zimbabwe in 2007, she was looking to leave behind the violence in her community. Loud noises still bother her.
In spite of the occasional bang, Nihabose found sanctuary in the United States — and, more recently, a renovated public housing apartment managed by the Columbia Housing Authority.
The Columbia Housing Authority is in the middle of a massive renovation project aimed at rehabilitating 717 public housing units by 2025, according to a news release from the housing authority. Bryant Walkway Apartments, the fifth of nine planned complex renovations, received a dedication ceremony Tuesday evening, attended by Mayor Brian Treece, the housing authority’s CEO Phil Steinhaus and others.
Nihabose is one of 119 residents who live at Bryant Walkway Apartments, along with her three children and husband of eight years. She received the keys to the apartment Sept. 24 and moved in four days later.
The apartment complex accounts for 54 of 717 public housing units that the housing authority plans to renovate. To date, 597 of those renovations have been completed across five different complexes, according to the news release.
Public housing policy was critical to securing the funds necessary to renovate the complex. Almost all of the renovations performed there were funded by low-income housing tax credits, Treece said.
“This is a shining example of how (the tax credits) can and should be used to provide quality, affordable housing,” Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said during his remarks at the event.
Kendrick called for a bipartisan agreement to reinstate the state-matched portion of the tax credits. Those credits have been frozen since the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted to stop issuing them in 2017, according to previous Missourian reporting.
State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick spoke against reinstating the tax credits in early May due to what he characterized as inefficiencies in the program.
Low income housing tax credits are far from the only policy tool used by the housing authority. It also qualifies for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, according to the release. The program allows the housing authority to receive long-term rent subsidies from the federal government, Steinhaus said. This in turn allows the authority to remain competitive when attracting investors to purchase tax credits so it can fund projects.
In addition to the 717 units managed under its public housing agreement, the housing authority also administers 1,180 Section 8 housing vouchers, according to the release. The housing authority also runs project-based voucher housing, meaning that the housing unit itself is subsidized, not the resident.
Programs like these are what allowed Nihabose to find a home at Bryant Walkway Apartments. Her new home gave her a third bedroom and a downstairs bathroom — enough room for her family of five.
She plans to host a dinner of cassava and beans for her family and neighbors Tuesday evening.
Supervising editor is Kaleigh Feldkamp.