Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin fielded questions Tuesday afternoon from the media about the city’s new City Lender Uplift Program.

In the wake of the disaster at Allen Benedict Court, the city of Columbia is making it easier to become a homeowner with the City Lender Uplift Program.

This loan program offers low down payments, assistance with closing costs and will even work with those that have low credit scores.

Mayor Steve Benjamin made it clear that this community development initiative is separate from public housing. The goal of the program is to remove barriers of entry into home ownership for those in the local community.

“Give me an opportunity. If you give me an opportunity, you remove some of these false barriers of entry just to have safe, affordable housing where I can work hard, take care of my family, provide shelter and be able to keep some of my income to put food on the table and educate my family,”said Benjamin. 

Through this program, Benjamin hopes to “attack this in a very comprehensive way.” Including those in public housing, Section 8, affordable housing and all the way up through the median income, the goal is to make sure that those who work in the city can also live in the city.

“We’re talking about people who are looking to become homeowners for the first time,” said Benjamin. “There are across this city hundreds, if not thousands of folks, who emerge from public housing and are homeowners in this city, some using some of these tools that our Community Development Department has put forward.”

“We don’t want our clients to drain their accounts to get into home ownership. This right here makes it easier, more affordable,” said Felicia Kilgore, loan office supervisor of community development.

Kilgore says that clients should take the first leap and encourages those interested to reach out.

“We want to ensure that they understand what it takes, so once they get to the closing table, they’re experts,” she said. 

“All across America, this is a challenge that we’re facing,” said Benjamin. “How do we make sure that we have more housing options for our citizens?”

All of this comes after the deaths of two men at Allen Benedict Court, a public housing complex off of Harden Street, after a deadly carbon monoxide leak. More than 400 residents of Allen Benedict Court were displaced.

The public housing complex was closed on Jan. 18, a day after the deaths were discovered. A month later, some residents are still in temporary housing.

Gloria Saeed, director of community development, opened Tuesday’s press conference by giving a brief introduction of the initiative.

The City of Columbia’s Community Development Department displayed information about a new home ownership program, which includes low down payments, no private mortgage insurance and low interest rates.