History of the CHA – Columbia Housing Authority in South Carolina
The Columbia Housing Authority in South Carolina was started in 1934.
It no longer goes by the name Columbia Housing Authority, and now goes by the name Columbia Housing, at the website www.columbiahousingsc.org.
*Note: This site is CHASC real estate and is not affiliated with CHA or Columbia Housing, and provides public housing, CHA information and Columbia Housing information on an informational, third-party basis only. Accuracy is not guaranteed and you can confirm any questions with the official Columbia Housing site as referenced above.
It is the biggest government housing program in South Carolina. It provides resources, help, and helps 6,500 low-income families comprised of around 16,000 total people, with affordable housing.
It helps by providing Columbia Housing owned living communities, Columbia Housing-sponsored mixed-income, mixed-finance residential communities, Housing Choice vouchers, supportive housing arrangements and homeownership opportunities. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds all of Columbia Housing’s programs.
Columbia Housing’s history and notable programs are outlined below:
The Univeristy Terrace was the first low-rent housing development in South Carolina and the third type of this project in the US.
Construction was done by the Public Works Administration at a cost of $760,000, and started July 30, 1936, finishing ready for occupancy on August 1, 1937. The Housing Authority of Columbia originally sponsored the University Terrace project which was then given to the US Housing Authority in 1938 and leased back to the Columbia Housing Authority for operation and maintenance.
University Terrace was a development of 122 apartments, 48 units for whites and 74 for African Americans. The sloped site made for a 60 foot terrace physical barrier between the white and black housing units. The contractor that completed this project was the M.B Kahn Construction Company.
The apartment rents included heating, lighting, cooking, refrigeration and water. White units were charged $22.70 and $33.30 a month, and African American units were charged between $2.30 and $4.45 per week. William Geddings was the site manager and Maceo A. Entzminger was the African American maintenance superintendent.
The State newspaper featured an editorial on August 18, 1937, with this to say about the University Terrace community:
“Here, too, is an example of that policy of parallel development for the races that wise leaders of both groups advocated in the South. There are healthful and attractive units for Negroes at the southern end of the block and apartments for whites at the northern end, with a 60-foot terrace between. Both are built according to the best available plans for meeting the needs of the tenants. Both are designed by making home life more healthful and attractive, to add to the efficiency of workers in office, in store, mill craft or trade.”
The University Terrace living units demonstrated the high demand for this type of housing, and the need for more funding and public housing in the Columbia, South Carolina area. At this point there was already a waiting list of people who didn’t get the University Terrace housing and were waiting for other public housing opportunities.
In September of 1937, the United States Housing Act of 1937 passed, also known as the Wagner Housing Act, officially reorganized the federal public housing program and created the United States Housing Authority (USHA), the program that came before the current administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Nathan Straus, interested in slum clearance and better housing for years prior, was the first head of the USHA. The new plan stipulated that local housing authorities would implement the design, construction and operation of projects and the USHA would provide program direction, financial support, as well as some technical and design assistance.
Right after this act was implemented, the South Carolina Columbia Housing group, with support from Mayor Owens, immediately asked to expand the current Columbia program and was granted funds for two additional projects, Gonzales Gardens and Allen Benedict Court.
Gonzales Gardens Project
On June 12, 1939, Chairman W.S. Hendley announced the Gonzales Garden project named after the Gonzales Brothers,would be located on Forest Drive, across from Providence Hospital. The property on Forest Drive was bought by the CHA on June 17, 1939, and included 23 acres of land that would suit 200 to 250 units of low-income housing. Construction of the new project began in late November, 1939, and the final plan included 236 dwelling units for approximately $1 million dollar cost. V.P Loftis, a construction company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, won the project with the lowest bid.
Gonzales Gardens opened for residents to live in September 16, 1940, and was filled in 15 days. One hundred of the new apartments were for non-commissioned officers families stationed at Fort Jackson. The rest went to low-icome civilian families, based on federal income level law.
The CHA owned and operated the project, which was 236 units that only white families were permitted to live in. Rents started out ranging from $7.65 to $16.75 per month and included electricity, gas and water.
The Gonzales Gardens project was CHA’s first use of graded rents, and one of the first projects in the country to do this. Graded rents means adjusting monthly rental amount according to a family’s income.
In May of 1942, 44 additional units were added to Gonzales Gardens, bringing the total to 280 where it stands today.
Gonzales Gardens used the same loan contract as Allen-Benedict Court, and both projects together cost $1,800,000. Allen-Benedict Court is made up of 244 dwelling units, and was originally developed to house only African Americans. It was also owned and operated by the CHA, and featured graded rents.
Allen Benedict Court
On November 18, 1939 the CHA started accepting construction bids for the Allen-Benedict Court project. Arthur Wellwood, the director of the CHA, announced Allen-Benedict Court would be located within the area bounded by Harden, Oak, Calhoun, and Laurel Streets. The M.B Kahn Company was awarded the construction contract in conjunction with the Boyle Road and Bridge Company.
Construction started February 11, 1940. The plan was for 244 dwelling units of which, 182 were leased before the official move-in date of November 15, 1940. Just before the move-in date, M.A Entzminger was appointed the Resident Manager of Allen-Benedict Court by the CHA’s board of directors. The rents were similar to Gonzales Gardens, but Allen-Benedict Court had more options on apartment size than the Gonzales sister project.
Andrew Jackson Homes
When the US entered into World War II, Washington put its efforts into providing war worker housing. To support the war effort, the CHA set aside 100 apartments at its Gonzales Gardens community for military officers and their families stationed at Fort Jackson. The war and influx of military people in the area, had caused a housing shortage at the base. Additional housing at Fort Jackson was under construction at the time, and upon completion of the new community, named Andrew Jackson Homes, the CHA managed it at the request of the Federal Government.
The Andrew Jackson Homes community built by the Public Buildings Administration (PWA), and a defense housing project consisting of 350 units for soldiers and civilian workers at Fort Jackson. It cost around $1,150,000, and was located on 60 acres of land next to to Fort Jackson.
The first military families moved into Andrew Jackson Homes on July 23, 1941. When Andrew Jackson Homes opened, the military families at Gonzales Gardens left, which opened up 100 vacant units at that community. However, there was still a large need for additional public affordable housing in the Columbia area.
In 1947, Andrew Jackson Homes management was returned to the United States Army.
The Columbia Housing Authority paused its building and acquisition activities during World War II. Four years after the war’s end, the USHA finally resumed its mission again.
In 1949, there were two more proposals for public housing communities. The first, Hendley Homes, opened on July 1, 1952. It consisted of 300 units on a 22-acre site off Rosewood Drive. The area on Rosewood Avenue was considered a prime target for subsidized housing and urban renewal because most of that area consisted of below-standard housing. The $2.5 million facility was named after the Chairman of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, W. Smedes Hendley.
Construction of the Hendley Homes community finished in June of 1952, and the first tenants moved in July. Those who were left without homes due to the slum clearance on the Hendley Homes site, were given priority during the application process.
In 2000, residents on the Hendley Homes site had to move once again, shortly before the community was demolished. In the spring of 2003, the CHA hired Urban Collage, a firm out of Atlanta, Georgia, to oversee the redevelopment planning process for the Hendley site. Several public workshops were held, and the final site-plan used input from the community.
Right after the opening of Hendley Homes in July of 1952, Saxon Homes was close to completion. The construction team was Byck-Worrell Construction Company of Savannah Georgia who was the low bidder on the project at $2,487,347.00 for 400 units. The location of the new project was two-fold; Harden, Elmwood, Seegars Park, and the Southern Railroad bound was part 1 of the project, and the Southern Railroad, Slighs Avenue, Seegars Park, and Oak Streets was part 2. The Board members of the Authority named the new project after Celia Dial Saxon, a well-known and dedicated educator in the State of South Carolina.
Construction started March 27, 1952, and finished on April 15, 1953. The Saxon Homes community had 400 apartments in 64 brick multiplexes and a large community office. The apartments ranged from one to five bedrooms. The Dedication of Saxon Homes took place on May 16, 1954, and after this project, the Columbia Housing Authority increased its total unit number to 1,403.
An on-site daycare center was added to the Saxon Homes community in the 1970s. The CHA owned the Center and it was operated by Benedict College. In October of 2002, the daycare center was converted into a Health Center that is currently operated by Palmetto Health.
In September of 1999, the CHA received a HOPE VI grant to tear down Saxon Homes. The community was demolished in September of 2000, and rebuilding on the site began in May of 2003.
The demolition of Saxon Homes spurred the creation of “The Door Project: Connecting the Past to the Future,” a joint effort between the CHA and the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties. The project took doors from Saxon Homes and converted them into public art pieces, and was designed to preserve the memory of Saxon Homes and raise money for future public art projects within the new HOPE VI community and throughout Columbia. An auction of the doors in October of 2002 raised more than $70,000.
On April 18, 1956, the CHA was approved for another project called Jagger’s Terrace. The construction contract was awarded to the Shockley Firm for $731,462.00. The community was named after Reverand Charles Jaggers, a missionary to the poor, from Chester County, South Carolina.
The new complex consisted of 74 units, and was located on Barhamville Road. Construction took over two years, and the community officially opened on September 2, 1958.
Many of the previous housing projects had overlooked the housing needs of the elderly Columbia citizens. The City’s housing shortage included those over 65, but none of the projects that had been built specifically for this or designed for the needs of the elderly with special housing needs. The Housing Authority responded to the need for elderly housing by prioritizing it during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The CHA committed to providing housing for the elderly which served as a catalyst for the Oak Read High Rise project.
The location for the Oak Read project was on the corner of Oak and Read Streets, between Allen-Benedict Court and Drew Park. The building contains 111 units, 56 efficiency apartments, 54 one-bedroom apartments, and 1 two-bedroom apartment (housing for the essential person). The construction contract was awarded to the Congaree Construction Company of Columbia with an estimated cost of $1,219,000.00.
Construction on Columbia’s first elderly high rise, Oak Read, started in May of 1966, and officially opened on September 30, 1967. This property is still operated and maintained by the Columbia Housing Authority which is now known as Columbia Housing.
As the public housing waiting list continued to grow, the Columbia Housing Authority kept going, starting its 9th project. The new Latimer Manor community was named after S. L Latimer, Jr., the longest tenured housing commissioner in the nation at the time. The 30-acre community was located between Colonial Drive and North Main Street on Lorick Avenue. Construction on the 200 units began in April of 1968 and cost $3,225,000.00 .
The cost was higher than previous projects because Latimer was designed for large families. The Latimer Manor community featured 30 two-bedroom apartments, 70 three-bedroom apartments, 80 four-bedroom apartments, and 20 five-bedroom apartments. The Charles J. Craig Construction Company finished construction in February 1970. Latimer Manor was opened on February 9, 1970, and the CHA’s 1,100 name waiting list had families that quickly occupied the complex.
During the building of Latimer Manor in 1970, the CHA had started to consider a second elderly facility. However, construction for the new elderly community was paused due to over bidding by several contractors in October 1971. Groundbreaking for the Marion Street High Rise finally happened on December 12, 1972. The Oak Read high rise embodied comfort, accessibility and efficiency, which also steered the design of the Marion Street high rise.
The 16-story Marion Street High Rise contained 146 apartments, 85 efficiency units and 60 one-bedroom units. The cost to build it was $2,992,889.00. The H.L Coble Construction Company of Greensboro, North Carolina did the construction, and residents moved into the building in February of 1975. Once all the units at the Marion Street High Rise were filled, 350 elderly persons were still on the waiting list.
Single Family Homes
The style of large community complexes were less popular during the 1970’s so the CHA innovated once again. The new style of scattered community sites, single-family homes, and smaller locations all were a change to the approach of public housing.
In January of 1976, the CHA demonstrated purchased 75 single-family homes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These homes were scattered throughout Richland County, and were in keeping with the Authority’s efforts to decentralize low-income families. The money to purchase the homes came from HUD’s Development program. The CHA continued to buy homes through the Development Program until 2001 when HUD took away funding for the program.
In 2000, the CHA started buying single-family homes with HUD funding. Due to the demolition of Saxon Homes in 1999 and Hendley Homes in 2000, the CHA was eligible to receive funds through HUD’s Replacement Housing Program. Through this program, the CHA continues to purchase single-family homes that are located all over Richland County.
In March of 1976, the CHA started a new housing program called Section 8 that would further reinforce the concept of scattered site housing. Under the agreement, the Federal Government gave CHA $247,000 a year for five years to pay rent supplements on 150 private rental units. Federal officials said additional funding would be available if the CHA was able to handle the additional units.
The CHA proved that it could handle the additional units, and since then the number of families assisted by Section 8 has grown to over 2900. Key program dates:
- The CHA’s Moderate Rehabilitation (Mod Rehab) application was approved in August of 1979. The Authority received ACC in 1980 for 80 units (was a total of 536 Mod Units)
- In December of 1982, the CHA received 37 Certificates from HUD for use with the City of Columbia’s Rental Rehab Program.
- July of 1983, the CHA received approval from HUD to allocate 6 Mod Rehab certificates to the City of Columbia
- Innovative Grant Program (Home Conversion)Demonstration Program.
- Section 8 Voucher Program was around 1986 Housing Vouchers provide families with a greater choice of units in the local housing market.
- In 1993, the CHA received funding to assist 25, three-bedroom eligible families residing in legitimate homeless shelters.
- In 1998, the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (QWRA) merged the certificate and voucher programs into the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The two programs were completely merged by October of 2001. Under the old certificate program, subsidized rents were held to a standard that dictated the gross rent (subsidy, tenant rent and utility allowance) could not exceed the fair market rent. The voucher program does not cap the amount of rent an owner can request. The housing subsidy for a family is determined by applying a formula using the Payment Standard. If the family is willing to pay the difference, the rent can exceed the applicable payment standard. However, the family’s monthly payment cannot exceed 40 percent of its monthly income.
- In 2001, the CHA signed an agreement with the City of Columbia to administer 60 HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons With Aids) Vouchers.
The main difference between the Section 8 program and traditional public housing, is that the CHA does not own the Section 8 units. The units are owned by private landlords who have agreed to rent to families who receive Section 8 assistance. Families housed under Section 8 pay no more than 30% of their adjusted gross income toward rent. The CHA pays the remainder of the family’s monthly rent directly to the landlord.
In June of 1976, after a few roadblocks, Hammond Village was added to the CHA’s housing inventory. The original plans included over 300 units and a grant of almost 5 million dollars to improve what had been known as the Camp Fornance area.
Problems came up when it was discovered that the original plans for Hammond Village conflicted with a project that SCE&G had planned for the area. With the help of Senator Stom Thurmond and the cooperation of SCE&G, plans for the Hammond Village community were altered, and the project was completed.
The 16-acre Hammond Village site, which is located on Marlboro Street, features 78 units, 12 one-bedroom apartments, 52 two-bedroom apartments, and 14 three-bedroom apartments. The cost of the property and the construction was $1.8 million dollars, far from the original estimate in 1969 for $4.5 million. The community was named after Lougenia K. Hammond, a dedicated community service worker in the Camp Fornance area for 18 years.
The dedication of Hammond Village happpened on June 28, 1976, and showed how the city could work area businesses to accomplish a lot.
Archie Drive, St. Andrews Terrace, Fontaine Place, & Atlas Road
CHA’s development plans in the 1980s and 1990s committed to spread out sites with its four new communities. These communities would be smaller and less dense. Each site would have 25 apartment units, and be in a different location of the city. The four new projects were:
- Archie Drive
- St. Andrew’s Terrace
- Fontaine Place
- Atlas Road
They were all designed the same, 11 duplexes and three single-family units. All brick construction was used, it cost $2,000,000. The dedication of all four took place on July 10, 1981.
The CHA used another HUD grant to start the Wheeler Hill project. The groundbreaking took place in May of 1980, and construction finished in July of 1981. The 16 units at Wheeler Hill were smaller and scattered. The cost of the sixteen units was $667,150.00. The complex is located in a four-block area bounded by Rice and Pickens Streets.
On August 23, 1979, the CHA received a HUD grant to renovate the six-story Arrington Manor. It cost $2,797,673.00, which included the purchase and renovation of the property. It was redesigned to accommodate the elderly and the handicapped with features such as lower cabinets, elevators, and metal supports in the bathrooms and was a high-rise. It was located in Five Points on the corner of College and Oak Streets and had all the necessary amenities for the elderly. The building contained 56 units, 14 efficiency apartments, 29 one-bedroom apartments, and 13 two-bedroom apartments and opened in 1981.
On August 4, 1980, the Cayce Housing Authority was created by the City of Cayce to deal with unsanitary and unsafe, accommodations in Cayce. It was also charged with addressing the shortage of safe and sanitary housing in the area for low-income families. The Columbia Housing Authority was the managing entity for the Cayce Housing Authority, and still manages it day to day.
The Cayce Housing Authority has 40 assisted housing units that are scattered throughout the City. Its units at Spencer Place are designated specifically for seniors.
One year after constructing Arrington Manor, the CHA kept going. The next project was the Eastover Community, and it became the CHA’s first rural housing development since its jurisdiction had been broadened in February of 1976. The design for the project included the construction of 67, solar heated units on a 20-acre site in Eastover, South Carolina. The plan was approved late October 1980, and completed in 1985.
Valued at nearly $2.9 million, the Eastover community featured one, two, three and four bedroom units that ranged from 679 square feet to 967 square feet.
In 1981, the CHA opened Arsenal Hill, a community of three brick multiplexes on Richland Street. The downtown location included 20 units, 4 one-bedroom, 12 two-bedroom and 4 three-bedroom.
Construction on the Fair Street community started in 1984 and was finished near the end of 1985. Fair Street included 2 duplexes and 4 triplexes of brick construction and housed 16, one-bedroom apartments suited for elderly living (those over 50 years of age). Fair Street is located in North Columbia, off Monticello Road.
The Dorrah-Randall community was added to the CHA’s housing inventory in 1989, as part of a HUD program to increase the availability of low-income housing not concentrated in a large housing project and to disperse low-income and minority residents into areas of lower minority and income concentration.
Dorrah-Randall is located off North Main Street past Columbia College. It features traditional, two-story quadraplex architecture, and consists of 56, three-bedroom, walk-up apartment units. The Dorrah-Randall community didn’t address the need for larger family units however.
Columbia Housing Authority Development, Inc. (CHAD)
On June 16, 1982, the Columbia Housing Authority created Columbia Housing Authority Developments, Inc. (CHAD) to allow for it to obtain more alternative financing. In the 1980s, housing authorities were restricted from applying for certain grants; frequently, HUD specified that only 501(c)3 (the IRS designation for a non-profit organization) organizations could apply. This was especially true when creating housing for the homeless. HUD regulations also stated that if a housing authority receives any income, those funds are counted against the operating subsidy the authority receives from HUD. This made it almost prohibitive for the CHA to plan any programs outside the realm of conventional public housing because of the financial disincentives.
CHAD was key when the CHA wanted to develop the Congaree Vista community. These were scattered sites and single family homes all in one. This Vista is made up of three locations on Richland, Blanding and Pulaski Streets in Downtown Columbia. Each of the three sites feature three-bedroom Charleston-style town homes of brick construction that have parking in the rear. The Vista development was the first community in which the CHA was able to install central air in every unit.
The opening and dedication ceremony for the Vista community took place on October 15, 1995. Henry Cisneros, then Secretary of HUD, traveled to Columbia to take part in the event.
In October of 1999, the CHA purchased Pinewood Terrace Apartments to try to replace some of the units lost as a result of the demolition of Saxon and Hendley Homes. The CHA paid $880,000 for the units using Comprehensive Grant funds. Located on Satchelford Road, the community is 31 two-bedroom units that were constructed in 1984. The building design featured two-story buildings connected by breeze-ways, each containing eight, single-story apartments. A fire in March of 2000 burned 18 units to the ground, and the CHA determined that it was not economically to rebuild the units. Consequently, only 13 of the original 31 units remain.
Homeownership and Jaggers Terrace
In December of 1998, the CHA created a homeownership community. To make way for this new development, the CHA demolished Jaggers Terrace. In its place, the Authority spent nearly $2 million to build 25, single-family brick homes to be sold for $80,000 each.
The homes were completed in August of 1999 when the first 25 families moved in. In order to remain, residents were required to work, attend school, and work toward achieving homeownership. The program proved its worth in 2000 when the first of the house was sold.
The idea of building homes, rather than barrack-style apartment complexes, drove the idea behind the design of the T.S Martin Community. The T.S. Martin community isn’t listed as a HUD project, because it is a low income tax credit project for individuals who need subsidized housing (the Tax credit project was in conjunction with the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority and the CHA’s HOPE VI program). The land where T.S Martin was built was donated by the City of Columbia, and is located off Germany Street in Downtown Columbia. The community consists of 35 single-family homes, all with three bedrooms. The community, which was built by Mungo Homes, opened on August 20, 2002. It will remain a rental property for 15 years. At that time, residents of the community will have the first opportunity to buy the homes.
CHAD was a key player in the development of the T.S. Martin community, and still controls it today.
Celia Saxon Neighborhood
The Celia Saxon Neighborhood was created through the HOPE VI program on the site where Saxon Homes once stood. Construction on the first units in the new neighborhood began in May of 2003. The first five units completed were Elder Cottages, designed for single individuals over the age of 50. Five former Saxon Homes residents moved into the cottages in February of 2004.
In January of 2004, infrastructure construction began on the lower part of the Saxon Homes site.
Although the philosophy of public housing design may have changed dramatically over the decades, the fundamental mission of Columbia Housing, previously known as the CHA, has remained unchanged, that is to provide safe, decent housing for families with low incomes. The revitalization of Columbia can be attributed in part to the success that the Housing Authority has achieved through years of hard work and innovation as it strived to fulfill its mission.
As of today, the Columbia Housing Authority is actually two housing agencies, the Columbia Housing Authority and the Cayce Housing Authority, though Cayce is separate, but managed by the CHA and its staff. The CHA is considered a 509a, which is tax-exempt Public Charity declared by the Internal Revenue Service. Also a Federal agency the CHA and its affiliate Cayce, are governed under codified law in the Code of Federal Regulations.