Kevin Connelly, the company’s president, successfully navigated all of the land use, zoning and financing challenges for the community, but the city withheld one last but vital approval: sewer service. The city decided not to approve a sewer hook-up for the project, even though sewer lines already existed, no costly extension of new lines was necessary and there was more than sufficient capacity within the current infrastructure to accommodate the new housing.
Without final sewer approval, Connelly became ineligible for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) from the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority and the development was no longer financially feasible.
Compounding the problem, after the opportunity for receiving 2004 tax credits had passed, the city annexed the Tanners Crossing site and placed a restrictive zoning classification on it preventing it from being used for multifamily housing.
“West Columbia’s low-income minority citizens, who would have benefited from affordable rents at Tanners Crossing, were deprived of decent, affordable housing because the city interfered with the project’s development,” Wilson said.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that 77.5% of renter households in West Columbia are black and that 21% more of the city’s black population lives below the poverty line than whites.
The average monthly rent for a unit at Tanners Crossing would have been $543.
Connelly has a proven track record of obtaining tax credit allocations from the authority in South Carolina, which has enabled him to build 434 affordable housing units in nine projects throughout the state.
NAHB has joined the suit because the city’s actions run contrary to the association’s efforts to promote housing for minority households.
“NAHB seeks to ensure that its members can build affordable housing for all people throughout the United States,” Wilson said. “One of our guiding principles can be found in the Housing Act of 1949, which calls on this nation to provide a ‘decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.’ ”
Connelly and NAHB are seeking declaratory relief and a finding that West Columbia’s interference with the development of Tanners Crossing is a discriminatory practice that violated the FHA. Connelly is also seeking damages for the lost development opportunity.
For more information, e-mail Mary Lynn Pickel, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8485.
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