New bill aims to give cities more power, hold housing authorities accountable

Published: Feb. 14, 2019 at 7:10 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A new bill introduced in the South Carolina state legislature this week aims to increase accountability within local housing authorities.

Richland County Senator Darrell Jackson introduced the bill on Wednesday and said it is a direct result of the tragedy that has taken place at Allen Benedict Court apartments in Columbia.

The bill, if enacted into law, would allow a county's legislative delegation to adopt a resolution calling for a "state of emergency" if it finds a housing authority took action or failed to take action resulting in residents being subjected to hazardous conditions or conditions that led to one or more deaths.

If a state of emergency is declared, the housing authority's commissioners are immediately suspended for 90 days and the mayor takes over all duties and powers of the housing authority.

Once that happens, the city council would then launch an independent investigation into circumstances under which the state of emergency was declared. If that investigation reveals wrongdoing, the commissioners are immediately removed from office and the city council has the authority to appoint new members.

The bill is retroactive, meaning it if it becomes law it would apply to current Columbia Housing Authority commissioners.

Senator Jackson said the non-partisan effort will now go to a public hearing in front of a subcommittee. He added Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin was informed of the legislation but was not consulted as it was drafted.

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