Valdosta fights substandard housing - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta fights substandard housing

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November 20, 2006

Valdosta - In 1999, a study conducted by Valdosta State University revealed there were almost one thousand substandard housing units in Valdosta.

City officials thought this number was to high.  "Housing, we feel is most important impact on our community, families, and individuals having a decent place to live," says Mara Register, Valdosta's Community Development Director.

So they decided to begin a campaign that would rid the city of substandard housing by the year 2020.  "Mayor and City Council decided they definitely wanted to eliminate substandard housing, gave us a definite date, and a time to do it," says Housing Inspector Richard Joyner.

So they teamed up with organizations like Coastal Plains and Habitat for Humanity who tear down substandard houses to build newer affordable housing.  But they realized this was only one issue that needed to be addressed.  "You look at not only new housing and first time home buyers but you look at how your going to work with existing houses," Register adds.

Enter the Southern Hospitality work camp.  These 400 teens travel to Valdosta once a year from all over the county.

Their mission, to help fix substandard houses lived in by the elderly and disabled.  "By addressing these minimum code issues now, it stops them from progressing any further where they get very very serious," Register says.

The community has taken notice.  Joyner says, "They're finding out this city, the city government, and leaders really care about their situation. And that's something they didn't believe before."

The city's hard work hasn't gone unnoticed.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs presented Valdosta with the 2006 Magnolia Award in the Home ownership Category for their work with the substandard housing.  They have won the award three times since 2003.

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