Augusta Homeless Plans OK, Black Chamber Holds Small Business Workshops

Housing for Augusta’s low-income and homeless population topped the agenda of an Augusta committee on Tuesday, when the committee agreed to the first steps of a sweeping plan to address the homeless population. city ​​shelter.

The same committee postponed discussion of the Augusta Land Bank Authority using US bailout funds to develop an affordable housing program and agreed, subject to further approval, to allocate $500,000 of funds from the bailout to the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce to administer business advocacy and education. program.

“I’m extremely excited,” said Lynda Barrs, a longtime Augusta homeless advocate. “Once these strategies are approved, the work really begins.”

Subject to final committee approval next week, a comprehensive plan and two first steps: the creation of a Homelessness Crisis Response System Coordinator position and the development of a plan to create up to to 75 housing units with permanent support services using bailout funds.

Commissioner Jordan Johnson, who co-chaired the task force that developed the strategies, added to the endorsement that recommendations for both elements be returned within 90 to 120 days.

Related:Augusta homelessness task force recommends adding supportive housing, but no new shelters

Homelessness has increased among most groups in the preliminary numbers compared to this year’s point count. Augusta’s total population increased from 470 to 576 in 2020. People not residing in homeless shelters increased from 315 to 282.

The committee referred a proposal to use $1.1 million in bailout funds for the land bank to create affordable housing in some of its many residential properties to a May 25 workshop.

Johnson said Augusta’s affordable housing crisis needs a “thorough conversation” before the city begins handing out funds. “We cannot start allocating funds without first establishing a framework,” he said.

The Housing Office guarantees the conditions

“Suitable” was how Augusta Housing Authority Deputy Director Doug Freeman and authority attorney Chris Cosper called conditions at Ervin Towers, a 10-story complex built in 1967 in the district of Laney-Walker.

The AHA is an entity entirely separate from local government whose members are appointed by the mayor. Several attended Tuesday’s meeting in response to the commission’s continued criticism of conditions at public housing projects, including at Ervin Towers.

Cosper, who has represented the group for 17 years, said Ervin’s renovation projects amounted to more than $20 million, exceeding the US cap of $13.25 million for housing and urban development, but the authority asks for a derogation. Meanwhile, Cosper and Freeman said the apartments were habitable for residents.

Johnson, who grew up in the Augusta housing estates, disagreed.

“In most cases, these units are not suitable at all,” he said.

Bailout Funds Darkroom

Greater Black Chamber chairman Ronic West said Augusta had more than 16,000 businesses and many needed support to survive.

Workshops the chamber has held with local banks have been well attended, and the city of Aiken recently agreed to have the chamber administer a similar $425,000 grant and loan program, she said. The group initially applied for $500,000 in funds for Augusta’s 2020 bailout and is required by law to provide services to everyone, not just black-owned businesses, she said. .

After:Augusta Wins Housing Grant for Harrisburg, Laney-Walker Project Linked to Augusta National

Commissioner Dennis Williams said the program will help raise the profile of Augusta’s many small businesses, such as contractors overlooked by those seeking services.

“It will help small minority businesses get recognized and known,” Williams said.