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$25 million housing assistance program closes days after it launches

Experts say the lack of affordable housing across the state is one of the reasons people are struggling with rent and mortgage payments.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Less than two weeks after it launched, applications have already closed for a program designed to help renters and mortgage payers with re-payments.

SC Stay, a program by SC Housing, began on February 18th. The $25 million in CARES Act funding is aimed at assisting renters and home owners get back on their feet, and up-to-date with payments. 

RELATED: $25 million in rent, mortgage assistance up for grabs in SC

Chris Winston with SC Housing says the applicants already approved  will exhaust the $25 million funding. "In just seven days, we got 7,000 applications. Between 4,500 and 5,000 of those are eligible for help and support."

Winston says a week after applications open, they are now closed. "We knew there would be a lot of applications, but I think we were even overwhelmed."

Tameika Isaac Devine, chair of Columbia's Affordable Housing Task Force says the pandemic has exacerbated the need for affordable housing. "The City of Columbia and Richland County alone have a deficit, and this is prior to COVID ... a deficit of 16,000 units," Isaac Devine said. "We have families that are living in cars or living with relatives because they can't find suitable affordable housing."

RELATED: New Columbia task force is tackling affordable housing issues

Isaac Devine says the task force is preparing to present council with their definition of affordable housing. The hope is to squash the misconceptions around affordable housing. "They think it might bring problems to the community,"  Isaac Devine said. "So, it comes upon us to show that they can be an asset to the community."

Jennifer Moore with United Way of the Midlands says voucher supported housing is one way to help those facing homelessness, although many still struggle to find a place to call home. 

"One of the biggest issues we've had is people will have that voucher in hand and people cannot find a unit," Moore said. 

The vouchers have a cap limit. Moore says there are very few spaces that fall within that price range. "We have people who have misconceptions about affordable housing," she said.

For those that missed out on submitting their application for the SC Stay program, the NAACP Navigators Program is currently open.