COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Residents of the Ralston Towers and city officials are stuck waiting for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to officially confirm what the next steps are for the building.
Outside the building, the tension was palpable as residents pace outside and wait for official notice from HUD on what comes next.
A HUD inspection last week gave the New Jersey-based owners a new score of 30, well below the required 60 to pass. The previous failed inspection scored a 42 in July.
The second failed inspection opens the door for HUD to pull the funding through housing vouchers to PF Holdings.
When that happens those Section 8 vouchers will likely be moved to the Housing Authority of Columbus to administer. HUD will bring in a relocation team and begin the process of finding homes for the nearly 200 people inside the Ralston.
This process could drag out for two to three months. Meanwhile, you have frustration mounting for the residents.
“They need to come on with the vouchers and quit delaying, uh you know, so people can go about their lives, because that’s what I’m waiting on so I can go on up and get out of here,” said Connie Kilgore, a Ralston resident. “I’m just stuck until I get a voucher in my hand, then I’m out of here. They can do whatever they want to this building, it needs to be condemned in my personal opinion because there’s so much work that needs to be done that nobody’s doing.”
Throughout the process of inspections, tours, and re-inspections, the residents have waited for a more concrete set of options for what happens next. While the owners of the Ralston remain tight-lipped to management, residents, and media, the residents inside have been kept waiting for news.
For some, the new inspection score is almost a relief, and a push to finally bring much-needed changes to the neglected building.
“People that drive by the Ralston going to and from work in the downtown area, you probably never really noticed what was going on. I think that to hear it validated, that there are some real issues, things that these residents have been saying for a long time, it is a little bit of a shock factor and it’s high time that something was done to be able to provide these folks with a quality place to live,” said Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson.
The reaction from public officials and local lawmakers has ranged from frustration to fury, especially from those who had the chance to tour the inside of the building.
Officials want to help the residents, but their hands are tied until HUD gives them notice on what the next steps are, and residents are getting more anxious as time passes and answers remain undelivered.
“Frustration, frustrated, what’s next, wanting someone to give them concrete answers…unfortunately at this point we’re not the entity that does that, what we’re saying is what we know thus far, which is no different than what was reported on the news this morning, and that we’re waiting for formal instructions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so that we can assist in making sure that the transitions, should they happen, again because I don’t know where they’re going with this, should be as smooth as possible for the residents,” said Pat Frey, Executive Director of Home for Good, a United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley program.
Home for Good has been working with willing Ralston residents to help them find other potential housing. Frey said they are in communication with about 20 residents.
Congressman Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., who had previously toured the Ralston in August with Columbus’s mayor and Congressman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., has been in constant contact with HUD about the fate of the Ralston.
“After scoring a 42 on the July inspection, we learned yesterday that Ralston Towers scored a 30 on the reinspection completed on October 23. It is beyond reprehensible that the New Jersey owners of the property care so little about the human beings living at Ralston. Unfortunately, HUD procedures provide for a seemingly endless bureaucratic process during which time the building’s occupants are left in limbo. My office is in constant contact with HUD, and I will continue to work with the Department, Congressman Bishop, and Mayor Henderson to bring relief to the residents of Ralston as quickly as possible.”Congressman Drew Ferguson, R-Ga