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90th Anniversary - 1934

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Columbia Housing 90th Anniversary, 1934-2024

Yvonda A. Bean
Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director

Columbia Housing Celebrates 90 Years of Rich History

This year - in 2024 - Columbia Housing celebrates its 90th anniversary and its rich history as one of the country's first established Public Housing Authorities.

Over the next few weeks, we are excited to share that rich history with you in a 9-part series that takes you on a journey through the decades. This is our 1st installment.

Our Beginning: 1934

The beginnings of Columbia Housing Authority can be traced to the early 1930s as the country was working its way out of The Great Depression triggered by the Stock Market Crash of 1929. To get the country moving again, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched The New Deal, a comprehensive plan to provide relief for the needy, economic recovery, and financial reform. Creating safe, sanitary, and affordable housing to replace slums was a cornerstone of those efforts.

In January 1934, the Civil Works Administration began surveying housing conditions in Columbia and found more than half of the homes lacked indoor tubs and showers, and about 30% had no running water. In April 1934, the Columbia City Council adopted a resolution by Mayor L.B. Owens to create the Housing Authority of Columbia (today's Columbia Housing Authority), a five-member, volunteer housing committee with the goal of "eradicate[ing] certain slum conditions."

Today, 90 years later, Columbia Housing is the single largest provider of affordable housing in South Carolina.

In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the United States Housing Act of 1937 into law. The Act created the United States Housing Authority (USHA), a federal agency that subsequently issued $500 million in loans for low-cost housing developments across the country.

Those funds would be very important as the newly formed Columbia Housing Authority began developing public housing communities.

Columbia Housing's rich history is also rooted in Columbia and Richland County's Civil Rights history, as the early developments were all segregated. Columbia Housing's first development, University Terrace, officially opened in 1937 as only the third development of its kind in the United States. The complex consisted of 48 apartment units for White residents and 74 row houses for Black residents, segregated by a steep slope and facing opposite directions.

The two-story row houses, which faced south, overlooked Columbia's Black public high school, Booker T. Washington. Its three-story apartment buildings for White residents overlooked the University of South Carolina and were, according to Mayor L.B. Owens, designed to "attract a desirable class of people to the section" of downtown. The Columbia Housing Authority maintained segregation at University Terrace until 1958 when it sold the complex to the University of South Carolina. The university subsequently housed married students and international students there until 1994, when it demolished the complex to make space for additional parking.

Be on the lookout for the 2nd installment of our 9-part series:

Columbia Housing: The 1940s

Columbia Housing and Cayce Housing provide housing to more than 6,500 families in its Housing Choice Voucher Program, Public Housing Program, and Tax Credit Properties encompassing more than 16,000 individuals across 24 properties in Columbia and Richland County. Columbia Housing is governed by a 7-member board with day-to-day operations under the leadership of the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Leadership Team.

Board of Commissioners:

Ernest W. Cromartie, III, Esq., Chairman
Kara Simmons, Vice-Chair
James Chatfield, Commissioner
George Green, Commissioner
Selena Pickens, Commissioner
Kevin Werner, Commissioner

1917 Harden Street • Columbia, SC 29204 

Equal Housing Opportunity Provider & ADA Accessible