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5,000 people on Columbia Housing Authority waitlist amid national home shortage

Thousands of people are on a waitlist for public housing in Columbia. Some have been waiting for years.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As the affordable housing crisis continues, the burden on those with low-to-moderate income remains high.

Public, low-cost housing and discount voucher programs are meant to help, but housing authorities like Columbia Housing say the wait is just half the battle.

"We have, right now, a waiting list of 5,000 individuals and families which speaks to the need that exists within the City of Columbia," Yvonda Bean, CEO of Columbia Housing said.

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It's a nationwide issue that's hitting close to home with those who receive vouchers having trouble finding landlords to accept them.

"We did an outreach campaign to landlords where we sent text messages; we put up billboards," Renaye Long, a spokesperson for the S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority, said.

While homes are limited, so are the resources for those searching with groups like Wateree Community Actions, Inc. working to keep families housed so they don't need to search for a new home.

Annette Tucker leads the organization, which provides rental, educational and employment assistance, among other services.

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"We've received phone calls for assistance, people crying out for help and there's very little available," Tucker said. "We have a certain amount of funds ourselves and we have exhausted those funds when it comes to rental assistance. So, it’s very little for those that are residing in Richland County and in our surrounding counties as well.”

Columbia Housing and the State Housing Authority (SC Housing) say they're doing what they can to help, forming partnerships with private developers to increase supply and improve maintenance issues at existing properties.

SC Housing is also offering rental and utility assistance to those who qualify along with financial assistance for homeowners.

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"We do have families that have been on the waiting list for a number of years and, again, unfortunately, that's due to factors that are out of our control," Bean said, "but certainly we are working as diligently as possible to get as many families housed as we can."

Columbia Housing says it is working toward a 2030 goal of increasing housing in the city. Meanwhile, Tucker hopes to see more lawmaker involvement to help with the issue.

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