Housing Authority receives grants, tax credits

The Columbus Housing Authority received two financial boons this week for its project to demolish and redevelop the Booker T. Washington housing complex.

The first was $837,119 in voucher grants to relocate some of the families to private Section 8 housing. The second was a set of tax credits that will result in $10 million to build Phase II of the project.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the vouchers to the housing authority to assist the agency in its renewal project. The tax credits came from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

"It has been a great week for the BTW project," said Columbus Housing Authority Executive Director Len Williams. "We're very excited to see it moving forward."

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., D-Albany, issued a news release expressing enthusiasm for what the vouchers will mean

to the community.

"These vouchers will provide a fresh start for families in Columbus who need safe and affordable housing," he said. "The vouchers will also make a big difference in rejuvenating the community by continuing the reconstruction of one of the oldest public housing facilities in Georgia."

The 392-unit housing complex is located at the corner of Veterans Parkway and Victory Drive. Plans call for 100 units to be constructed at the northern end of the property and a 100-unit senior facility to be built on the site of the former Chapman Homes at Fort Benning Road and Chapman Way.

The project will be completed in several phases, allowing residents to relocate while units are being constructed. The first phase began with the demolition of Chapman Homes and will be completed in November 2015 with the new senior apartments.

The second phase will involve the demolition of units on the northern end of the BTW complex, which is scheduled to be completed by August 2015. Bids for building new apartments at the location will go out in June 2015, with construction expected to be completed by November 2016.

Phase III of the project will involve the demolition and stabilization of the southern end of the BTW property, which is expected to attract commercial development.

On Thursday, Williams said the tax credits will be $900,000 a year over a 10-year period. Investors who purchase the credits will pay $10 million, which will be used for the construction of Phase II.

He said the vouchers the agency received this week are designated specifically for BTW families during the relocation process.

With the redevelopment of Peabody, now Ashley Station, and Baker Village, now Arbor Pointe, 60 percent to 70 percent of the residents ended up on Section 8, Williams said. But he's noticing a difference with the BTW project.

"We're seeing a lot more people choosing public housing than in the previous projects," he said. "We don't know why. We hope it's because we're doing a good job."

He said public housing facilities tend to have an occupancy rate of more than 99 percent, and the agency won't be able to accommodate all of the requests.

It's a different story with the Section 8 vouchers. Williams said "those who want them will get them."

Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.