Colony Apartments evacuation enters second month with an uncertain future

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Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 6:53 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tuesday night marks five weeks since the Colony Apartments were evacuated, and it’s unclear what the next five weeks may bring.

RELATED STORY: Columbia city officials looking into conditions at Colony Apartments

As of the morning of Jan. 31, the Columbia Richland Fire Department confirmed 290 out of the 300 units at the complex have been cleared for habitation. A spokesperson for the department said evaluations of the units are continuing.

The evacuation began on Dec. 27, after city officials found a lack of heat, a lack of water, and gas leaks at the complex. Code enforcers and officials with the fire department were brought in to assess the units.

In the aftermath, the ownership company Monroe Group has faced vocal criticism from city leaders and the threat of having federal funding pulled from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

RELATED STORY: Federal agency threatens to pull funding from Colony Apartments

HUD gave the complex a 60-day window to correct issues identified by the department. If the complex fails to do so, HUD could pull its federal subsidies and move the money toward the relocation of the residents.

The Monroe Group said it would appeal HUD’s assessment.

RELATED STORY: The future of Colony Apartments if management avoids federal notice

It’s unclear if the relocation will happen, but Colony Apartments resident Darryl Kenney said the idea of moving after just returning to his apartment is daunting.

“I don’t really know what we would do if they happen to remove all of us again, it was difficult for that short period of time,” he said.

The City of Columbia has various enforcement tools at its disposal, including fines for code violations.

Mayor Daniel Rickenmann told WIS on Jan. 26, the complex had tallied 83 fire violations and 144 code violations outside of heat and water.

The State newspaper reported on Tuesday the city had prepared nearly $200,000 in fines and repair costs for the Monroe Group, but the city did not confirm that with WIS.

The Monroe Group did not return a request for comment.

Rickenmann and District 2 Councilman Ed McDowell have vocally opposed the city taking any actions (such as pulling the complex’s rental permit) that would displace the residents.

The Colony Apartments are in McDowell’s district.

“It’s not what we want to do. What we want to do, is to make sure wherever folk are that they are safe, they are treated respectfully, that perhaps a tenant’s bill of rights is inserted within every lease agreement,” he said.

McDowell said the city is still gathering information on how to address the complex.

“We’re going to do exactly what is necessary, and that is before we make any decision about the future, it to make sure we have all the data before us,” he said.

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