Federal agency threatens to pull funding from Colony Apartments

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Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:49 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sent a letter to the ownership of Colony Apartments threatening to pull federal funding if life-threatening health concerns are not addressed.

The letter is dated Jan. 10 and gave the ownership group 60 days after receiving the letter to take corrective action.

The Monroe Group owns the Colony Apartments and, in a statement, said it would appeal.

It’s not immediately clear what the consequences of pulled federal funding would be for the residents of the 300 homes.

The apartment complex receives housing assistance payment under section 8.

The letter states inspectors were onsite on Dec. 12, 2022, which is two weeks before the Columbia-mandated evacuation of the complex.

Gas leaks, a lack of heat, and a lack of water were all identified.

The letter reads in part:

The inspection report, which HUD has made available to the Owner, identified serious deficiencies that demonstrate that the Owner is in default of its statutory, contractual, and/or regulatory duties to maintain the Project in decent, safe, and sanitary condition.

HUD scored the complex at 52c*. The 52 is on a 100-point scale, the “c” signifies life-threatening issues, and the “*” signifies smoke detector issues.

The department identified the following issues in the letter:

  • Emergency/Fire Exits Blocks/Unstable
  • Obstructed or Missing Accessibility Route
  • Insets/roaches/Infestation
  • Missing/Damaged Components from Downspouts/Gutter
  • Doors-Damaged Surface
  • Damaged/Missing Screens
  • Mold and/or Mildew Observed

The letter states HUD may re-inspect the facility, and if corrections aren’t made, the funding could be reduced, suspended, abated, or terminated.

It states civil fines could also be assessed.

The Monroe Group sent a statement on Tuesday reading:

“HUD performed a REAC inspection of the property in mid-December of 2022. Notably, HUD deducted 35 points (out of 100) due to modifications made to the HVAC closet door locks that were performed at the request of the City of Columbia Code Enforcement division this past August of 2022. Absent this single issue, the property would have received a high passing score. We are currently appealing the inspection score issued by HUD and cannot comment further due to HUD’s pending review.”

The HUD letter does not mention HVAC nor an appeals process.

WIS reached out to HUD for information, but the department did not respond.

The letter was also sent to Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann’s office and to SC Housing.

“I’m frustrated, yes, the colony has been an issue, the residents have complained about it for years and years and we’ve got to change it. This is not who Columbia is and we’re not going to tolerate it,” Rickenmann said.

He said he’s not yet sure what the consequences of pulled federal funding would be.

“We’ve actually got a call into HUD to see where they are in the process. Because that’s a big understanding. So how does that affect those tenants that are voucher driven? The one thing we don’t want is to have folks relocated or disenfranchised out of where they are today,” he said.

Rickenmann has been a vocal critic of the Monroe Group, expressing frustration over a delay in corporate response, and reliance on city assistance to correct the issues. He said problems with management began with the arrival of the Columbia Richland Fire Department and city code enforcers in late December.

“Trying to work with the management team on site, to get into the units, understand who’s there, they couldn’t provide us a list. We ended up having to go door to door,” he said.

The Columbia Richland Fire Department reports as of Monday afternoon 95 percent of the units have been cleared for re-entry, and Rickenmann describes the situation as an “ongoing” process.

“I’m hesitant that we’re going to get the response we should [from Monroe Group]. I hope we do, we’re looking forward to having a meeting with them, sharing all the information that we’re gathering,” he said.

WIS asked Rickenmann about the prospect of examining the company’s business license. Rickenmann expressed concern about the displacement of residents that pulling the business license could cause.

He did express support for breaking up the property.

“Maybe ideally we have a senior component, we have a young family component, we have a single mom’s component or family units. But managed by several different folks so they can stay on top of it,” he said.

State Rep. Leon Howard (D-Richland County) represents the community and expressed support for the city’s stance on the complex.

“The immediate thing now is safe residents, safe living conditions there for the citizens there and children, and then we can deal with the business license, and HUD and things of that matter. I’ve been talking to city leaders, we must immediately find some permanent residence that is a safe environment for the citizens,” he said.

Congressman James Clyburn’s (D) office declined to comment. Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham’s offices did not provide a statement in time for this publication.

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