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Lack of funding affecting county housing programs

Posted: June 23, 2016 5:30 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2016 1:00 a.m.

Although an increase in funding from Kershaw County is helping to keep a transitional housing program open, the Kershaw County Housing Authority (KCHA) is facing obstacles due to a lack of federal funding.

The KCHA recently received an additional $25,000 from the county for the upcoming fiscal year to continue running New Day on Mill. The transitional housing program lost funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earlier this year.

While the KCHA will be allocating the money to New Day on Mill, KCHA Chairman Donny Supplee said he and the group’s board hope to continue to work with government officials and community members to develop the housing authority.

“Our vision … has three priorities: housing for homeless, affordable housing and home repairs,” Supplee said. “Over the next several months we will be developing a plan for how our board can do this. We will need government support, both locally as well as state and hopefully federal. Our struggle has been, because we formed at the time we did, there is just no money available to move forward. (But) we are reenergized at this point.”

Supplee said the KCHA’s main focus, as with other housing authorities, is creating affordable housing for Kershaw County residents. While organizations such as Habitat for Humanity assist in reaching this goal, there is still a need to be met.  

“The affordable housing piece is the piece we were looking at … to have safe, decent, affordable housing. Our challenge with homelessness is the fact that there is not a lot of housing that is decent, safe and affordable. We want to do better in the realm of affordable housing,” Supplee said.

Another issue among some homeowners -- especially elderly homeowners -- is maintaining their homes.  

“We know there are a lot of people who want to stay in their homes but they are in poor repair,” KCHA Secretary Marie Sheheen said. “They just don’t have the resources to maintain the home, they need help with repairs. Most people are on fixed incomes. One lady (who has sought assistance) works but she is self employed and her income is not that high. She owns her mobile home but she just can’t afford the upkeep without some help.”

Supplee said programs like Salkehatchie are particularly helpful in offering home repair to Kershaw County residents. 

“It’s great that we have programs … that work on homes the government would say no to putting money in. They do some incredible things,” Supplee said. 

Families who need assistance for home repairs sign up on a waiting list.

“We probably have on average 45 people at any given point waiting on a list for repairs,” Sheheen said.

Housing vouchers are another form of assistance, but must be distributed from the South Carolina Housing Authority. Vouchers allow the recipient to live in HUD approved housing which a portion of the rent is paid by the federal government.

As for future projects, the KCHA board is hoping to renovate properties into affordable housing units.

“We’ve looked at hotels as possibilities for renovations … there are a lot of needs for single apartments and we could renovate a hotel in dilapidated conditions and upgrade it into acceptable housing,” Supplee said,

“And make it more attractive to the community – do some nice landscaping, make the whole area look better,” Sheheen added. 

Supplee said there is often a negative stigma attached to housing authorities and projects, but there are also housing developments which contribute aesthetically to the community.

“We don’t want the negative stigma that some housing authorities have,” Supplee said.

Both Supplee and Sheheen acknowledge becoming homeless can happen for many people with one missed paycheck.

“You could lose your job for one thing. You could get a sudden illness that requires you to quit your job,” Sheheen said,  

“It can be as simple as a car breaking down so they lose their job because they have no transportation to work,” Supplee added. “The members on our board are people who really want to see some good in our community -- all the members of the commission live and work in Kershaw County and want it to be better.”


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