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NIP underway in the city

Posted: August 10, 2017 5:51 p.m.
Updated: August 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.

The city of Camden has many projects underway, including utility infrastructure, the new tennis/pickleball complex, launch of a Main Street SC program and many more. 

One project that is not as visible as some projects, such as undergrounding utilities, is the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP). This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Treasury and a joint venture between the S.C. State Housing Finance Development Authority (SC Housing) and the S.C. Housing Corp.  

In 2014, NIP was announced, making available up to $35 million in funding to all 46 counties in South Carolina on a competitive basis. A requirement of the program was to have at least one non-profit partner and within the partnership, one was the lead entity. Knowing we, as the City, wanted to apply for NIP, the City chose the Santee-Lynches Regional Development Corporation (RDC) as our non-profit partner. The Santee-Lynches Regional Development Corporation serves a four-county region that includes Kershaw County and the city of Camden and works to improve quality of life and economic development. In 2015, the City was awarded $1.6 million by the SC State Housing Authority.  Santee-Lynches RDC has been a valuable resource for the implementation of this project.   

The goal of NIP is to remove blighted properties in order to improve neighborhoods. As a result, neighborhood property values are stabilized and future foreclosures are prevented. This is a win-win for the community allowing for the demolition of potentially dangerous, uninhabitable homes. Over the years, there have been many ideas floating around as to a way to address blighted properties.  Blighted properties are an issue faced by many other cities, towns, and counties throughout the state. NIP provided an answer to the often poised question about what can you do. While some blighted buildings are simply unattractive to look at and neglected, there are many that pose a danger to public health or as havens for crime.  We believe this program will not only help with the beautification of the community, but help preserve existing neighborhoods that have been cornerstones of our community for decades.  

The NIP process is not something that happens overnight.  The city and RDC have been working on this since we received the award notification.  To date, we have made a lot of progress but there is still progress to be made. It may seem like we could simply send in a list of blighted single family residential or multi-family units and hire someone with a bulldozer to knock them down; however, there are many steps that first need to be addressed.  City staff was required to develop a fact sheet about each property that included a variety of maps, photos, and facts.  All properties were submitted to S.C. Housing staff to determine property eligibility based on habitability, structural condition, impact on community preservation, historic status, and public safety.  After that, the Santee-Lynches RDC worked with the property owners to purchase the target property. We are pleased to announced that a total of 37 houses have been acquired using NIP.  

That is 37 blighted properties that will be demolished, 37 properties that will positively impact the neighborhood, and 37 potential opportunities for redevelopment in our city.  There is no way to know what would have happened to these properties without NIP, but many would have remained blighted. As of today, 6 of the acquired houses have been demolished. The remaining 31 are in the process of being demolished, which will be complete by December 1 of this year. The location where the 37 houses once stood will become green spaces until a future date when they may be redeveloped.  In some cases, those lots may remain a green space, in others, new houses may be built.  Either way, once complete with the remaining demolitions, these blighted properties will become examples of the benefits NIP funding provided. It is exciting to see how removal of blight can have such a positive effect on preserving existing neighborhoods.  We were excited when we received the funding and even more excited to see it become a reality.  

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