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.


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.


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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raul 11/14/11 - 01:12 pm
@seenitB4. Read the Atlantic

@seenitB4. Read the Atlantic Monthly article you referenced several months ago. Quite an eye opener. Hence my earlier comment of destruction of the projects and increase in Section 8 housing spreading the crime. Should be required reading for those advocates of Section 8 housing and mixed income housing.

jackrussell 11/14/11 - 01:25 pm
If one wants out of low

If one wants out of low income housing, then one needs to work his/her way up and out of it. I did. And putting them in my good neighborhood I busted my butt to get into only provides more targets for them, their nephews, nieces, grandchildren,
etc., to rob, burglarize and terrorize. They don't respect what they have, so why do you think they will respect what everyone else has? Get real people.

kiwiinamerica 11/14/11 - 01:39 pm
More "social engineering"

More "social engineering" from the gubmint.

Doomed..........just like all their previous attempts.

allhans 11/14/11 - 01:51 pm
HappyChimer, A dear woman,

HappyChimer, A dear woman, your grandmother.

happychimer 11/14/11 - 02:15 pm
allhans thank you. She was

allhans thank you. She was very dear. She sewed and ironed for people, so she could support herself and my dad. She had no enemies. Her health was bad, and now I know what was wrong with her. Parkinsons did not have a name till about the time, or right after she died. She had the symptoms.I wanted to be just like her, and when she put Tube Rose snuff in her mouth, I would put Hersheys cocoa in my mouth. She spit and I spit. She was shake her head and arms, and I would do it too. I thought all old people shook. She let me thread needles for her. I remember sitting on her trunk while she told me stories, and listening to the rain on the tin roof. precious memories!

augusta citizen
augusta citizen 11/14/11 - 03:30 pm
raul, guess you needn't hold

raul, guess you needn't hold your breath for specsta's answer, LOL!

dstewartsr 11/14/11 - 05:06 pm
Q: Why would some

Q: Why would some automatically assume that poor people are so derelict in their character?

A: Direct observation.

bclicious 11/14/11 - 05:32 pm
Yes, please do away with all

Yes, please do away with all low income housing. It is such an eye sore.

seenitB4 11/14/11 - 06:41 pm

Crime follows poverty where ever it goes.......the 2 people who researched this didn't plan to find these results.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 06:42 pm
People should be welcomed to

People should be welcomed to live on any property and in any neighborhood that they pay for.

Investing in something is what gives the value, the meaning, the commitment, the appreciation and the satisfaction. You simply cannot give one into those things.

dstewartsr 11/14/11 - 07:42 pm
"People should be welcomed to

"People should be welcomed to live on any property and in any neighborhood that they pay for."


Things, including where you live, have direct value in proportion to what you put into them, in money, time, and effort. To the recipients of free or almost free housing, it is valueless. And they demonstrate it by how they treat the property and their neighbors. The comment, "Yes, please do away with all low income housing. It is such an eye sore," may have been written as sarcasm, but it is a great thought nonetheless.

When I grew up, I could with some accuracy estimate your income in my home town by your address . There was no free housing at all. There were tenements. And anyone worth calling human did what they could to move up to better housing. There was incentive; tenements were NASTY. There were boarding houses (two meals a day, breakfast and dinner, bathroom at the end of the hall) for single men and women- doors locked at either nine or ten in the evening, no vistors of the opposite sex. For transients, drunks, and lock-outs there were 50 cent a night flop houses (one sheet, one blanket, one pillow- two sheets or a extra blanket, extra). Cost to taxpayers: Nothing. I like that system.

seenitB4 11/15/11 - 09:50 am
Birds of a feather flock

Birds of a feather flock together...there is a lot of truth in that saying....people flock together for many reasons..
Safety---habits---security---common interests---social skills----education of offspring---& just the common need of social time with other humans......EVERY time the government messes with this setup it BACKFIRES....not sometimes but EVERY time....
Putting section 8 groups into a high middle income group would be like putting most of us in a multi- millionaires neighborhood.....

Work & earn a better way of life....the education is there...many are able to move up & if you want it can make it happen.

drivenslow 11/15/11 - 05:26 pm
sorry i cant recall anybody

sorry i cant recall anybody being a great influence on me when i was eight years old but it sure sounds good if you say it fast enough pffffffttt....oh i take that back no wait i dont remember a thing from when i was eight

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