Augusta seeks to end concentrations of low-income housing

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A new mixed-income development on the former site of the Underwood Homes public housing project could be the beginning of the end for concentrated poverty in Augusta.

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Olla Maloyd, 56, worries the next phase of construction at The Legacy at Walton Oaks could bring problems for seniors already settled into the neighborhood.  Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sara Caldwell/Staff
Olla Maloyd, 56, worries the next phase of construction at The Legacy at Walton Oaks could bring problems for seniors already settled into the neighborhood.

The Augusta Housing Authority is buying into a model widely used across the nation that replaces traditional barrack-style public housing with modern apartment homes where the poor and middle class live side by side.

The first residents began moving into The Legacy at Walton Oaks off Sand Bar Ferry Road the first week of October. The initial phase includes 75 units for residents older than 55.

In a complex featuring manicured landscape, cushioned patio furniture, a community room with a flat-screen television and an exercise facility, 12 of the units are low-income public housing.

Those residents pay rent totaling 30 percent of their net income. An additional 25 units are designated for low-income residents receiving project-based rental assistance, a Section 8 program.

Right next door, higher-paying tenants receive the same amenities at a reduced rate to attract middle-class tenants.

Federally funded public housing projects, criticized as isolated pockets of poverty, have begun to disappear across the nation. The Augusta Housing Authority sold Gilbert Manor to the Medical College of Georgia in 2008. It was razed followed by the demolition of Underwood Homes.

Cities across the nation, including Atlanta, Macon, Ga., and Savannah, Ga., have implemented mixed-income housing. Richard Arfman, the director of planning and development for the housing authority, said he hopes Walton Oaks succeeds and it becomes a trend in Augusta.

“That’s the problem with traditional public housing. Traditionally, they call it warehousing of the poor, and you put them all in one little area. That just doesn’t breed (a) very good social atmosphere, and it creates crime issues,” he said.

Escaping the problems of concentrated public housing provides an incentive for low-income residents to maintain their property or else risk eviction, he said.

Olla Maloyd, a former Underwood Homes resident, never thought she would get out of public housing or temporary living situations. She moved to Walton Oaks from a trailer on Oct. 5.

“It’s like a dream come true. Me living here is like you wake up and you’re in heaven,” Maloyd, 56, said.

That dream, however, could be an illusion. Maloyd is concerned the next phases of construction at Walton Oaks, which will build hundreds of family housing units, could bring problems for the seniors who have already settled into the neighborhood.

“They’ll bring break-ins, vandalizing things. You’ll have to worry about people coming into your part,” she said.

Arfman said high standards set by Walton Communities, the property’s developer, will help avoid those problems. A management firm will constantly monitor the families for housekeeping, loitering and over-extended guests, Arfman said. Residents who cause problems will be evicted.

Maloyd is on a fixed income, consisting of Social Security and disability payments. Like other new residents, she cleared a screening process from the Augusta Housing Authority and the apartment managers for financial and criminal background.

Walton Oaks is the Augusta Housing Authority’s first mixed-income housing to become reality. A proposed development on Deans Bridge Road was nixed after nearby residents opposed low-income people moving into their neighborhood. The housing authority still owns the tract of land but doesn’t plan to build there.

Walton Oaks had a quieter entrance into the east Augusta neighborhood. Several community meetings detailing plans for the development uncovered little opposition.

“They feel anything that can upgrade the neighborhood, they’ll all for it,” said Ernest Muhammad, the president of the East Augusta Neighborhood Association and a 30-year resident of the area.

INTEGRATING PEOPLE from various economic situations could solve societal ills such as crime and unemployment associated with warehousing the poor, said Dave Hunt, an associate professor of sociology at Augusta State University.

“It’s an attempt to get people to change their behavior by changing their living situations,” he said.

Higher-income people provide different values and attitudes for others to model. Better-quality housing also instills a sense of ownership and responsibility. On the other hand, some fear the communities will deteriorate rapidly and resemble the low-cost housing it’s intended to replace, Hunt said.

An $8.2 million low-income tax credit from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs was awarded in 2009 for the Walton Oaks project. The housing authority provided an additional $1.2 million it received as federal replacement funds for 528 units lost from Gilbert Manor and Underwood Homes.

The authority operates 12 housing projects for 4,958 residents. The most dense projects, Cherry Tree Crossing and Dogwood Terrace, contain 1,660 people. Arfman could not detail future plans, if any, for those complexes, but he said several high-rise apartment buildings for the elderly will not be replaced by mixed-income units.

Renee Glover, the president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, has been called a pioneer of mixed-income housing. Since she joined the authority in 1994, 16 mixed-income communities have replaced 10 public housing projects in Atlanta.

“This is not a statement about the families that have few resources. This is a policy problem,” Glover said. “It’s a horribly flawed social design.”

Affordable housing for different income levels improves a city’s economic condition, education system, tax base and crime rates, she said.

“Crime is reduced because you don’t have a situation that is desperate and people are feeling helpless,” Glover said.

THE ECONOMIC IMPACT of the mixed-income communities was studied by Bruce Seaman, an economist at Georgia State University. In his study, Seaman focused on the impact of households attracted to live in the new, revitalized communities and the impact from construction associated with demolition and rebuilding.

Since revitalization efforts began in 1995, household spending from affected families had an economic impact of more than $165 million. The construction investment impact totaled about $1.5 billion.

Glover cited the study published in May as proof that the private market invests around mixed-income properties. In some cases, investment began as soon as demolition occurred.

More retail is attracted to an area when the number of households with disposable income increases. That change might take more time to realize in a down economy, but the social dynamics change immediately, she said.

Liza Farmer, 57, is a higher-income resident who chose to live in Walton Oaks for the amenities and quality of life. She’s not concerned about living close to low-income residents or incoming families.

“I don’t think it’s going to bring the area down at all,” Farmer said. “When they tore (Underwood Homes) down, I think all the bad apples went down with it.”

Standards set by the apartment and agreed to by residents on their leases should keep the complex from deteriorating, she said.

“They’ll be put out, so that makes me feel secure,” Farmer said of anyone who violates the agreements.

THE LEGACY AT WALTON OAKS

Phase 1 features 75 units for residents older than 55. About 50 percent are reserved for low-income residents as public housing or project-based rental assistance.

Higher-income residents pay a rent reduced from the market value. A one-bedroom unit costs $527 per month, and a two-bedroom costs $634.

After five weeks accepting residents, the complex was about 30 percent occupied with seven public housing tenants.

Future phases will increase the total unit number to 300.

BY THE NUMBERS

Public housing projects in Augusta and the number of residents living in each:

Allen Homes379
Barton Village516
Cherry Tree Crossing951
Dogwood Terrace709
Ervin Towers97
Hal Powell Apartments100
Jennings Homes431
M.M. Scott Apartments208
Oak Pointe Apartments619
Olmstead Homes549
Overlook Apartments166
Peabody Apartments233

Source: Augusta Housing Authority

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Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 11/14/11 - 07:08 am
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Wasn't this the same idea

Wasn't this the same idea behind forced busing?

Nice story about how this all works and will make "concentrated" poverty disappear. I guess spread out poverty makes it less "bad"???

Is this a coincidence that this showed up the day before the Laney Overlay District vote?

There are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidence.

Brad

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 11/14/11 - 07:13 am
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Also, Mayor Deke and Fred

Also,

Mayor Deke and Fred Russell tried to slip one of these in on Goshen a few years ago using "stimulus" money. Anyone remember that?

No vote from the commission, no public input either. They just signed it and submitted it.

It would have moved Section 8 into Goshen and was even going to provide free bus service for the residents!

Brad

cityman
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cityman 11/14/11 - 08:39 am
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You CAN take them out of the
Unpublished

You CAN take them out of the project but.....you CANNOT take the project mentality out of them!

cityman
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cityman 11/14/11 - 08:40 am
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Olmstead Homes is prime water
Unpublished

Olmstead Homes is prime water front property. Indigent people have no business living there. MOVE THEM OUT!

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 11/14/11 - 08:41 am
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i guess when you're poor,
Unpublished

i guess when you're poor, hanging out around your house is called loitering.
I worry that concentrated areas housing the rich are producing lots and loots of crime around here.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 11/14/11 - 08:48 am
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Richard Arfman said, “A

Richard Arfman said, “A management firm will constantly monitor the families for housekeeping, loitering and over-extended guests. Residents who cause problems will be evicted.”

Then where will they go after they are evicted?

seenitB4
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seenitB4 11/14/11 - 09:38 am
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Brad said... Wasn't this the

Brad said...
Wasn't this the same idea behind forced busing?

Yes...I do believe it was ....how is that working ??
The planners should live in these projects & see what problems will occur & experience this first hand....putting a medium income next to a very poor income resident sometimes just instills jealousy & bitterness....heheh....that utopia feeling everyone hopes will happen doesn't come from living next to a richer neighbor....

Oh the studies-studies-& psychology going into these projects......if you really want to help them ---clean up their neighborhood(make them do it) inside & out.....get the druggies out & keep them out.....put a factory of menial labor nearby.....crawl B4 you walk kind of life...insist on education classes while living there (or kicked out)educate about finance-healthy cooking--learning proper Enlish---raising children---birth control..............placing a Lexus next to a chevy won't turn the car into aLexus!

Jane18
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Jane18 11/14/11 - 09:42 am
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I believe Ms. Olla Maloyd is

I believe Ms. Olla Maloyd is correct in what will happen with her little piece of "heaven". Be safe Ms. Maloyd...........

southern2
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southern2 11/14/11 - 10:02 am
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The time has come to

The time has come to reevaluate the Great Society mentality. Stop funding housing for anyone. If you are poor, then live like it. I have watched the "government dependents" continue to evolve to a lavish lifestyle on the backs of those who work and sustain them. Where is the incentive to pursue the American Dream when it is handed to you by power hungry politicians. America is broke and this helped break her.

wondersnevercease
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wondersnevercease 11/14/11 - 10:03 am
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LOL...I see I am not the only
Unpublished

LOL...I see I am not the only one who finds this plan a bit on the overreaching expectations category? I thought only I was just "jaded".

And I also feel for the elderly who seem to always be stuck with the dregs of society for their neighbors.

raul
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raul 11/14/11 - 10:18 am
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Spread out the proverty,

Spread out the proverty, spreads out the crime. That is what you are seeing with the destruction of the projects and increase in Section 8 housing. Putting lipstick on the pig doesn't change it from a pig.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 10:23 am
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It's the reverse of the

It's the reverse of the magnet school concept where you take the best, smartest and well behaved students and put them together. Here we spread the not so great among their betters recognizing the beneficial effect of the association.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 10:32 am
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I used to have a neighbor I

I used to have a neighbor I lived next to who made me feel superior. I walked around my yard feeling very confident. So maybe this sociological thing can work both ways.

griff6035
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griff6035 11/14/11 - 10:57 am
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Little Lamb. They will give

Little Lamb. They will give them a Map to Burke County.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 11/14/11 - 11:03 am
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What they are hoping for is

What they are hoping for is to spread some to outlying counties....I think that was mentioned in a post a month or so ago....sooo RM...section 8 housing next to $400,000 homes might be coming to your part of the world......now will that give you a warm fuzzy feeling.....maybe some of your "intelligence" will spread over to your new neighbors....let me know how that works ....:)
The taxpaying citizens are what RC needs more of....funny that they run them off with each passing day.

drivenslow
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drivenslow 11/14/11 - 11:08 am
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so the middle class families
Unpublished

so the middle class families will pay what 800 a month while someone right beside them pays 200 for the same thing yeah let me move right on in there NOT

drivenslow
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drivenslow 11/14/11 - 11:09 am
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itll never happen
Unpublished

itll never happen subdivisions wont even let a home be built for a diables veteran you think they will allow section 8 beside their mcmansion

drivenslow
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drivenslow 11/14/11 - 11:11 am
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and once again i have a
Unpublished

and once again i have a bridge to sell....because soem lawyer will come to the rescue to someone being evicted

drivenslow
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drivenslow 11/14/11 - 11:12 am
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when are you folks gonna get
Unpublished

when are you folks gonna get it in the real world there people are not equal....so stop trying to make all people equal

raul
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raul 11/14/11 - 11:38 am
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Call me an elitist , or

Call me an elitist , or whatever, but why if I am middle class would I want to live next door to a low income resident? Think I'll leave that to the sociology professors that believe in that. Funny, I have a college degree with a psychology major/ sociology minor. I used to believe those liberal theories when I was young. Then, later in life, you get a full dose of the real world. Unfortunately, the professors teaching this stuff never venture from their ivory towers.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 11/14/11 - 12:04 pm
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True Raul, the professors are

True Raul, the professors are forever insulated in their little academia worlds. All of the professors I've known in my life lived in really nice, safe, high end neighborhoods too. Just sayin....

specsta
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specsta 11/14/11 - 12:17 pm
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Wow, the majority of the

Wow, the majority of the posters on this board could only be defined as elitist snobs. You act as if the poor have some sort of disease that will rub off on you. One's financial status or circumstance in life does not dictate one's character. I know plenty of folks with money that are shallow, ill-mannered, self-centered and absolutely horrible people to be around. Money does not infuse a likeable personality or the ability to care for others.

Why would some automatically assume that poor people are so derelict in their character? Rich folks not only rob from you, but they will rob you of your entire life savings, à la Bernie Madoff and some of these banks. Ask some worker being oppressed by their rich employer what they think about rich folks.

There are good and bad characters in every economic stage of life. But to think that someone's little rich world is going to come crashing down because a poor person moves in their neighborhood is outright stupid.

raul
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raul 11/14/11 - 12:32 pm
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@specsta. Just curious, how

@specsta. Just curious, how about a self description of your political, socio-economic status?

drivenslow
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drivenslow 11/14/11 - 12:33 pm
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not an elitist im a
Unpublished

not an elitist im a realist.....no way am i gonna pay top dollar for a place to have someone right next to me living for free.............the poor bring their drug dealing kids....ill wager a million dollars the place will be a dump in 5 years and will harbor the same ilk as cherry tree crossing because middle class folks will not even think to look at the place just because of its location.......

happychimer
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happychimer 11/14/11 - 12:34 pm
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specsta I agree with

specsta I agree with you.Also, I know a few well-off people who are very nice people, and don't act like they are better than anyone else.Just because a person is poor does not mean they are trash. Those who think otherwise are not living a Christian life.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 11/14/11 - 12:34 pm
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http://newsbusters.org/blogs/

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2008/06/21/section-8-vouchers-cr...

Please read this article spec & maybe you can see what weare talking about...VERY IMPORTANT INFO.ON SECTION 8

happychimer
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happychimer 11/14/11 - 12:36 pm
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and politics has nothing to

and politics has nothing to do with this. There are rich and poor repubs and democrats.

raul
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raul 11/14/11 - 12:44 pm
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@specstra. Nobody said all

@specstra. Nobody said all rich people are good characters or poor all bad characters.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 11/14/11 - 12:45 pm
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ARTICLE SAYS Betts remembers

ARTICLE SAYS
Betts remembers her discomfort as she looked at the map. The couple had been musing about the connection for months, but they were amazed—and deflated—to see how perfectly the two data sets fit together. She knew right away that this would be a “hard thing to say or write.” Nobody in the antipoverty community and nobody in city leadership was going to welcome the news that the noble experiment that they’d been engaged in for the past decade had been bringing the city down, in ways they’d never expected. But the connection was too obvious to ignore, and Betts and Janikowski figured that the same thing must be happening all around the country. Eventually, they thought, they’d find other researchers who connected the dots the way they had, and then maybe they could get city leaders, and even national leaders, to listen.

No one is belittling the poor.....the crime factor is there & sugar coating the problemn won't make it go away.
You can't GIVE a person a better life....it doesn't work.........many poor from my generation didn't have the freebies & they managed to lead productive & successful lifes.

happychimer
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happychimer 11/14/11 - 12:55 pm
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I think about my precious

I think about my precious grandmother that I loved so much. She died when I was 8 yrs. old, and she has been a big influence in my life. She lived next door to us, and I spent as much time with her as I did my parents. She lost 3 baby girls , and an 8 yr.old girl. She had 3 sons, and she lost her husband to tetanus. She could not keep up the farm, and she lost the farm. What pain she must have felt. She lost everything except her faith, her boys and her memories.To think anyone would think they were better than her just hurts real bad. My parents had to watch out for her, because if anyone asked her for anything she had, she would give it to them.

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