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$30 million federal grant pending to redo Allen Benedict Court

Columbia Mayor said he is going to be pushing to get the funding for a $30-million grant that is currently pending before HUD.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — (WLTX) -- It has been nearly a week since 411 residents of the Allen Benedict Court apartments were told to evacuate their homes following a gas leak. There is still no word yet on when and if these residents will be able to return back to their homes.

"It's old property, it's well beyond it's useful life," Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin said.

Two deaths are believed to have been caused by the natural gas leak from last week at the apartment complex, plus 411 residents are still being shuffled around between temporary homes with no permanent placement in site.

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"We are going to provide leadership as we should to this community of Allen Benedict Court and for people of all across Columbia regardless of source of the challenge, but it is important for me for people to understand that we do not run the housing authority and haven't for literally 70 years," Mayor Benjamin said.

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Mayor Benjamin said he is going to be pushing to get the funding for a $30 million grant that is pending before HUD. The pending application for the grant was filed back in November of 2017 before the gas leaked happened.

The Executive Director of the Columbia Housing Authority Gilbert Walker spoke about this briefly Friday.

"Well one of the things we have done here that you're probably not aware of is that we applied for a $30 million dollar grant to demolish this property, and we applied for it through HUD," Walker said. "I was hoping that we would hear something in January, but then we had the shutdown. So nothing has taken place." 

That grant would would completely redo the Allen Benedict Court community and relocate those residents, similar to the Gonzales Gardens project. 

Mayor Benjamin plans on discussing this application while he is in DC with Secretary of HUD Ben Carson.

"The Housing Authority is driving this and they will be advising us in exactly where they stand moving forward. I know they have a desire to repair the properties we believe from our perspective that, that's much more of a challenge then it appears to be," Benjamin said. "But they desire to provide some type of a fix that that allows people to return back to Allen Benedict Court. Our priority is only the health life and safety of the people who live there."

Neither the Mayor or Columbia Housing Authority have a solution in place right now to give these residents anything more than temporary housing.

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