A nonprofit organization based in West Columbia is making efforts to connect with struggling homeowners in Fairfield County.
At the Monday night Fairfield County Council meeting, Steven Gaither, grant coordinator for Fairfield County, and Davitte Richardson, director of the Brookland Housing Project, gave a presentation on the Brookland Community Housing Project in West Columbia.
Its goal is offering safe, decent, affordable housing for individuals on low incomes.
There is an emphasis on home ownership, home repair and counseling to help people who rent homes to transition into becoming home owners. The organization also places resources on redeveloping foreclosed properties.
Established at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, the organization originally served the Sugar Town and Happy Town areas.
With time it expanded to serve Richland, Lexington, Orangeburg, Kershaw, Fairfield and Newberry counties.
The nonprofit organization works with S.C. HELPS to help prevent foreclosure on homes. It also is a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO).
The CHDO Board consists of three to nine members.
One-third of the members must represent low income housing either by their income levels or by the location of the housing.
One-third of the members are public officials and the remaining one-third board members come from the private sector.
The Community Housing Project offers home buying classes in conjunction with the Columbia Housing Authority. It also participates in a Richland County home owner program.
Senior citizens can receive free tax service through the project.
The home repair segment of the Brookland Community Housing Project is a popular one according to Richardson.
The service provides repairs to owner-occupied homes but there is a $20,000 cap on the amount of repairs that can be made. Richardson pointed out that not all homes require the full $20,000 so that can free up funds for the housing project to reach other needy home owners.
The $20,000 is a forgivable loan over a period of time, however if the home owner chose to sell the home while a balance was still owed on the loan the homeowner would have to repay the balance unless there were circumstances that allowed the debt to be forgiven by the state housing authority.
The housing project is grant funded. Usually the organization receives two grants a year, but sometimes they have as many as three.
During the four grant cycles per year they take in typically around $46,000 which is enough funds to repair at least two owner occupied homes.
Richardson said all the state funds used are in conjunction with the South Carolina Housing Authority and the South Carolina Finance Department.
The Housing and Urban Development HUD and CHDO, plus nonprofit organizations such as the Brookland Housing Project, can then do outreach for the entire state of South Carolina.
The Community Housing Project also can get persons in touch with a Housing Trust Fund Program.
Typically that program funds five projects per grant period. The maximum amount of funds for an emergency repairs using that system, however, is $6,000.
In the future, the project hopes to offer single and multi-family rental units that will coincide with a program to provide preparation for home ownership.
Under that proposal, there would be a maximum two-year renting period after which the renter would transition into home ownership.
The housing project relies upon the S.C. HELPS Counseling Agency through the state housing nonprofit portion of S.C. HELP.
Utility and rental assistance also is offered on a need-based criteria. Richardson said that funds for utility and rental assistance often are the first used.
Need based criteria include one’s total household income, the number of individuals living there under age 18, if one has a disability, the condition of the home and health hazard/safety issues with the home. In order to receive assistance, one’s mortgage cannot exceed $750,000.
Emergency assistance is available if persons suffer a home-related disaster such as a flood or fire.
If the elderly are receiving assistance, Richardson said that they ask them to have family with them and they also require a work writeup to monitor the contractor.
A minimum of two bids are taken from licensed, bonded contractors for each job.
Richardson said there have been few calls from the Fairfield area to inquire for assistance from the housing project.
Fairfield County Council Chairperson David Ferguson thanked Richardson for presenting this information at the meeting. He suggested that council members work with Gaither to start utilizing these housing funds.
“Certainly there is need here. We have some homework to do to try to work things out and get some help for folks,” Ferguson said. “It is up to us to work with Gaither’s office and see what we can come up with.”
More information can be found about the Brookland Community Housing Project at www.brooklandhousing.org or by emailing email@example.com.