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An update of Columbia's affordable housing community, including Allen Benedict Court redesign

City of Columbia's Affordable Housing Task Force met Tuesday morning with presentation of Housing Authority's Vision2030
Credit: Columbia Housing Authority
The Haven at Palmer Pointe will replace Marion Street High Rise senior living.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The City of Columbia's Affordable Housing Task Force met Tuesday morning. On the August 10 agenda were two items: 

  • A revision to the definition of Affordable Housing and
  • A presentation of the Columbia Housing Authority's Vision2030 plan

Columbia Housing's Director Ivory Mathews and Vice President of Development Cindi Herrera gave the Vision2030 presentation, which included an update of the status of Columbia Housing Authority's (CHA's) Allen Benedict Court and the replacement for Marion Street High-Rise.

Matthews said as of Thursday, August 5, 2021, CHA received the final approval from HUD for the demolition of the Allen Benedict Court property -- work is to begin within the next 30 days. Matthews also presented proposed plans for rebuilding the site. The new development would include:

  • two senior buildings facing Harden Street with 168 units for those age 62 and over
  • 96 townhomes for families 
  • 99 units for workforce residents, defined as non-disabled, non-senior single adults
Credit: Columbia Housing Authority
The proposed re-development of the Allen Benedict Court property shows Harden St on the left with two senior apartment buildings.

Haven at Palmer Pointe, off Two Notch Road, will serve as the replacement property for the Marion Street High Rise senior living apartments. When completed, the three-story apartment building will house 150 senior units and feature 4,500 square feet of commercial space that CHA hopes will be filled with medical and senior support services.

According to Vision2030, over the next 9 years, CHA will be transitioning from traditional public housing to another affordable housing platform that will rely more on public and private partnerships rather than government funding. HUD will continue to provide protection for residents and tenant rents will still be based on 30% of adjusted income (HUD pays the difference between tenant rent rate and market rent). Projects are in the planning stages for demolition/reconstruction and/or rehabilitation of existing CHA properties as well as some new developments. 

Discussion after the presentation had task force member Pamela Reed, from The COMET, asking about working with CHA to help make transportation routes available as as new housing opportunities develop; and Coldwell Banker Realtor Shayla Riley offering assistance from the Real Estate community to help people transition from rental-assisted living to homeownership.

Redefining "affordable"

As of April 13, 2021, the definition of affordable housing was listed on the Affordable Housing Task Force Report as: “Affordable housing is a continuum of equitable, inclusive, and quality rental and homeownership opportunities for people at every income level, which is critical to creating safe, complete, and thriving communities.”

The use of the word "affordable," in the opinion of some, brings with it a certain stigma and calls to mind a stereotype of the type of housing and the people living there. 

The debate over using "attainable" rather than "affordable" -- "attainable" being a more empowering term -- was handed to a subcommittee. During the meeting, Dr. Bryan Grady, of SC State Housing, said "attainable" is just a buzzy way of saying "affordable" and Columbia Housing Director Ivory Mathews said the term "affordable" is easily understood, regardless of what type of housing is offered in the community.

Affordable Housing Task Force Chair and Columbia Council member Tameika Isaac Devine put forth the idea that the use of the word "attainable" gives in to the stigma and challenges that "affordable" brings and -- rather than changing a word -- educating the public on the evolution of affordable housing might be a better idea. 

The resulting subcommittee's revision kept "affordable" and the task force's definition now states: “Affordable housing consists of inclusive, equitable, and safe places to live, for owners and renters, priced such that all Columbians can afford necessities of living and fully engage in our community.”

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