CHA needs $30M for public housing facelift

By Jillian Capobianco - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -  It's going to take $30M to completely renovate the aging Gonzales Gardens off Forest Drive.

The units, which haven't been updated in 70 years, are very old and very small. The Columbia Housing Authority is hoping to raise enough money to bring the neighborhood into the  'new-age' of public housing.

Mother of 3, Brenda Wells, describes her apartment at Gonzales Gardens as small and dark as she points to cabinets that are falling apart. Her unit and others at Gonzales Gardens suffer from old age. They were built in 1941.

The public housing complex also sees it's share of crime. "We have kids and adults and elders and with the shootings, you know, bullets don't have eyes," said Wells.

Julia Prater with the CHA says although crime has gone down in recent years because of stepped up patrols by Columbia police, it is still a problem. "I think how that contributes to crime is that they're easily victimized, easy to prey on for people that are up to no good," said Prater.

The Housing Authority hopes Gonzales Gardens will someday have a mix of town homes and detached homes like Rosewood Hills.  Built in 2008, Rosewood Hills is a mixed income area and not everyone who lives there lives in public assisted housing.

"Our idea is that they can blend peacefully with the community without that stigma of the old public housing," said Prater.

Wells thinks living in a place where people have pride in their community would mean a better life for her children.

The proposed Gonzales Gardens would be a mix of town homes and detached homes. It would take $30M dollars to build.

The housing authority does not have that money right now, they wanted to come up with a master plan before applying for grants.

There is a meeting Tuesday night for residents of Gonzales Gardens and interested community members at the Tillis Center at 6 p.m.

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