HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 10-12-12
Joseph J. Phillips
(678) 732-2943
For Release
October 12, 2012


[Photo: Left to right - SC HUD Field Office Director Larry Knightner, City of Columbia Councilwoman Tameka Isaac Devine, SC HUD Public Housing Director Eric Bickley, City of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, Columbia Housing Authority Executive Director Gilbert Walker and HUD Southeast Regional Director Ed Jennings, Jr.]
Left to right: SC HUD Field Office Director Larry Knightner, City of Columbia Councilwoman Tameka Isaac Devine, SC HUD Public Housing Director Eric Bickley, City of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, Columbia Housing Authority Executive Director Gilbert Walker and HUD Southeast Regional Director Ed Jennings, Jr.

COLUMBIA - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Southeast Regional Administrator Ed Jennings, Jr. presented to the Housing Authority of the City of Columbia a symbolic check for $250,000 to execute grassroots efforts to revitalize the public housing at Allen Benedict Court and Gonzales Gardens of East Central Columbia.

The Housing Authority of the City of Columbia is one of 17 entities from across the U.S. receiving a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant today. The funding provides these communities the resources they need to craft comprehensive, community-driven plans to revitalize public or other HUD-assisted housing and transform distressed neighborhoods.

"Choice Neighborhood planning grant presented today to the Housing Authority of the City of Columbia to transform Allen Benedict Court and Gonzales Gardens of East Central Columbia is an important moment. Today, more than 10 million people live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty - surrounded by disinvestment, and limited opportunities for themselves or their children," said Jennings. "With these funds, local leaders are now able to use the same mixed-finance tools HOPE VI used to transform not just public housing in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, but privately owned affordable housing as well."

HUD's Choice Neighborhoods Initiative promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming distressed areas of concentrated poverty into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods. Building on the successes of HUD's HOPE VI Program, Choice Neighborhoods links housing improvements with necessary services for the people who live there - including schools, public transit and employment opportunities.

The awardees announced today were selected from among 72 applications. Successful applicants demonstrated their intent to plan for the transformation of neighborhoods by revitalizing severely distressed public and/or assisted housing while leveraging investments to create high-quality public schools, outstanding education and early learning programs, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs and well-functioning services. HUD focused on directing resources to address three core goals:

  • Housing: Transform distressed public and assisted housing into energy efficient, mixed-income housing that is physically and financially viable over the long-term;
  • People: Support positive outcomes for families who live in the target development(s) and the surrounding neighborhood, particularly outcomes related to residents' health, safety, employment, mobility, and education; and
  • Neighborhood: Transform neighborhoods of poverty into viable, mixed-income neighborhoods with access to well-functioning services, high quality public schools and education programs, high quality early learning programs and services, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs.

The grantees will use the funding to work with local stakeholders - public and/or assisted housing residents, community members, businesses, institutions and local government officials - to undertake a successful neighborhood transformation to create a "choice neighborhood." The awardees will use the funding to create a comprehensive Transformation Plan, or road map, to transforming distressed public and/or assisted housing within a distressed community.

Choice Neighborhoods is one of the signature programs of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (, which supports innovative, holistic strategies that bring public and private partners together to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Choice Neighborhoods encourages collaboration between HUD and the Departments of Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services to support local solutions for sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets and good schools all families need.

Congress approved the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative with the passage of HUD's FY2010 budget. Funding is provided through two separate programs - Implementation Grants and Planning Grants. With this announcement, HUD has awarded a total of $12.55 million in Planning Grants to 46 cities or counties.

Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants are awarded to entities that have completed a comprehensive local planning process and are ready to move forward with their Transformation Plan to redevelop their target housing and neighborhoods. In August, HUD announced the nine finalists that will compete for approximately $110 million in 2012 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants to transform public and other HUD-assisted housing in targeted neighborhoods. Teams recently completed site visits as part of the application review process to determine which of the finalists will receive Implementation grants.

Last year, HUD awarded its first CN Implementation grants for Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle, a combined $122.27 million investment to bring comprehensive neighborhood revitalization to blighted areas in these cities.


HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at and You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDnews, on facebook at, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.



[Map of Columbia, SC]

Columbia, SC

Choice Neighborhoods Lead Grantee: Housing Authority of the City of Columbia
Target Public Housing Projects: Allen Benedict Court, Gonzales Gardens
Target Neighborhood: East Central Columbia
Choice Neighborhoods Grant Amount: $250,000

Key Partners:
Urban Collage (Planning Coordinator), City of Columbia Community Development Department, Columbia Housing Development Corporation, Benedict College and Allen University, Providence Hospital, Palmetto Health, Richland One Schools, Richland County First Steps, Midlands Technical College, University of South Carolina, Midlands Workforce Development Board, and Eau Claire Promise Zone.

Project Summary:
The East Central neighborhood, which contains the severely distressed Allen Benedict Court and Gonzales Gardens public housing developments, suffers from a variety of problems including a 57 percent poverty rate and a vacancy rate of 14 percent. East Central is one of the most historic African-American areas in Columbia, with origins in the 1870s. At one time, it was Columbia's most prominent African-American community and was anchored by institutions such as Allen University. However, crime and economic challenges during the 1960s and 1970s left it struggling, with advancing blight only made worse by the deterioration of its public housing.

However, the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant will enable CHA, the community and its partners to develop a comprehensive neighborhood Transformation Plan. By doing so, the CHA-lead team will be able to capture and accelerate recent momentum that has occurred through nearby revitalization efforts, leverage the work that CHA has initiated with residents and the investments made in revitalization, and expand it into a broader transformation of the entire neighborhood to ensure that remaining pockets of blight are eliminated and East Central is set on a sustainable path. The team plans to build upon recent investments made at Allen University, Providence Hospital, Richland School District One as well as key neighborhood assets, including Drew Wellness Center, Celia Saxon Health Center, Tillis Family Life Center, Drew Park, recreation fields around Tigers Stadium, area churches, Providence Hospital, a walkable street grid and close proximity to downtown Columbia.


Content Archived: April 15, 2014