Best Practices

 

CITY OF COLUMBIA
Mayor Bob Coble

Oak Hill Apartments

As a result of a community-wide housing policy planning process in 1991, the need for assisted permanent rental housing for single individuals was identified. No assisted housing was available in Columbia for low income single persons who were not at least 62 years of age or handicapped. The Mayor and City Council decided in January 1993 to develop a housing community that would respond to this need and provide a quality option for homeless individuals by utilizing the HUD Moderate Rehabilitation Program and Section 8 Certificates.

The search for a suitable site resulted in the decision to convert a former dilapidated, crime-ridden motel located on a major thoroughfare near downtown and close-in city neighborhoods into 30 efficiency apartments. A City of Columbia Police sub-station is located on the site in a new building that also houses the apartment leasing office and community room. A one-bedroom apartment is occupied by a resident manager, and the remaining 29 units are fully furnished efficiency apartments. Residents sign annual leases and pay their own utility bills. Oak Hill Apartments are surrounded by an attractive decorative fence and have a single security-controlled entrance. A 10-member board of directors governs the affairs of Oak Hill. The day-to-day management is provided by Insignia Management Group, with whom the board has an annual contract.

The first residents moved into Oak Hill early in January 1995. By the end of March, all 29 units were occupied. The Oak Hill residents are a very diverse group. Ranging in age from 18 to 68, the majority of residents are working or have some source of income. Referrals have come from the woman's shelter, the Columbia Housing Authority, the Veteran's Administration, the Salvation Army, Providence Home, and other local service providers.

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Police Homeowner Loan Program

The Police Homeowner Loan Program is designed to address two concerns that plague many inner city communities across the country: increasing crime rates and deteriorating housing. The program's primary objective is to encourage city police officers to buy homes in need of repair in the low-to-moderate income neighborhoods they serve in the city.

To motivate officers to consider living in these neighborhoods, the city offers them a four percent, 20-year loan that covers the purchase price of the house, the cost of necessary repairs and closing costs, with no down payment required. This gives many officers an opportunity to own a home much earlier in their career than normal circumstances would permit. Becoming a member of the community gives the officers extra incentive to invest their time and energy in community concerns and a chance to interact on a more personal level with the people who live there.

Many of the neighborhoods targeted by the program had once been highly sought-after places to live. Gradually, though, some of the houses in these neighborhoods fell into disrepair. Rental houses, often with absentee landlords unconcerned with upkeep, are scattered among the homes of longtime residents. Some of the houses have been abandoned, providing convenient quarters for drug dealers.

Because of the Police Homeowner Loan Program, property values have stabilized and even rebounded in many of these neighborhoods, reversing the downward trend. Houses that had been on the market for years, houses that had been allowed to deteriorate almost to the point of being condemned, have been rebuilt or renovated and are now the pride of their owners. Neighbors have followed the officers' examples and have made improvements to their own homes, whereas before they often felt there was no point. Some areas are being renovated so successfully that they may no longer qualify for the program -- and that is precisely the city's goal for all of the targeted neighborhoods.

An unexpected but positive side effect of the program has been a more diversified population within the inner city. Having younger families move into some of the older neighborhoods has rekindled community spirit and generated a sense of security and well-being among elderly residents.

In 1993, the city received additional funding for the program as a recipient of the Ford Foundation's prestigious Innovations in State and Local Government Award.

Contact: Leona Plaugh, (803) 733-8313

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