What happens should Ralston owners default? City has a plan to assist residents

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The owners of Ralston Tower have been told to fix the many issues inside the low-come apartment complex.

If the work is not done by the end of September, they will lose the federal vouchers and the money that comes with them. 

The city of Columbus is preparing for the worst-case scenario. 

And, that worst-case scenario is that 200 people end up homeless.

“There are people here who can’t do for themselves,” said Ralston resident Lueshionda Sexton. “I am not saying shut it down because they would have nowhere to go. I would have nowhere to go. This is totally unfair.” 

And the city is working to make certain that does not happen, Mayor Skip Henderson said. 

“It’s a human rights issue,” he said. “It is an issue that involves people who are probably some of the most underserved and in the most need. And, they rely on very little in life. One of the things they rely on is being warm, dry, safe and healthy. And that’s not being provided right now.” 

All the Ralston residents rely on project-based HUD Section 8 vouchers. That means they are controlled by the New Jersey owners of the downtown Columbus building. 

HUD has told local officials should Ralston GA LLC default and not fix the facility, those vouchers would transfer to the residents. 

That would allow, Home for Good, a United Way agency, and the Housing Authority of Columbus to work to find alternate housing. 

The plan will be in place long before the 60-day deadline passes.

“We want to disrupt the lives of these individuals as little as possible,” said Home for Good Executive Director Pat Frey. “… The transference of those vouchers would allow for the seamless transition from the current housing situation to the safe affordable housing that could indeed pass the housing quality standards.” 

All of this comes a day after Henderson and congressmen Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. 2nd, and Drew Ferguson, R-Ga. 3rd, toured the facility and called the living conditions deplorable

Home for Good will begin assessments of those living in the Ralston to determine their Housing needs should the Ralston’s New Jersey owners default. 

This is not a new drill. Because of issues with paying the water and electric bills earlier this year, the city already had been working on a plan.

Frey, like Henderson, calls this a human rights issue.

“Each of these individuals do have those unique individual needs,” Frey said. “And it is the job of us in the community service provider world to meet people where they are, to access those needs and to help them to secure the services and the housing they need to adequately sustain permanent housing for the long term.” 

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