Perspectives: Despite stigmas, Colonial Terrace is a community

Just off Colegate Drive in Marietta and up the hill that is Cisler Lane is the large yet close-knit community of Colonial Terrace, an eight-acre Section 8 project apartment complex that 347 people call home.

Built in 1971, the complex features 171 units total, 50 which are dedicated to elderly residents and the remaining 121 to families.

Despite what they say are misconceptions and stigmas that often come along with the decades-old U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program, the complex’s staff and residents work hard to make the big population a community.

Property Manager Sandi Shea said many think of Section 8 project communities as what they see on TV: Big cities with crumbling houses that are in dangerous neighborhoods.

“People think they’re going to live with a bunch of criminals,” said Julie Schneider, a staff member who also used to live in the apartments.

The owner of Colonial Terrace, Colonial American Development Corporation, based in Columbus, outlines criteria that requires residents to have decent credit and does not allow felons or sex offenders to live in the complex.

The complex also employs a commissioned police officer to patrol around the area.

Shea raised her own children in the community, and said some residents have been there for more than 40 years.

Jodie Goudy, 66, has lived at Colonial Terrace for 14 years. Originally from Marietta, she moved to Phoenix, Ariz. for a job and then returned without one. She went through the process of applying to live at the complex and has been there ever since.

The property offers one-and two-bedroom apartments for residents 62 and older and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for families.

“I’ve never asked them to do something for me that they haven’t done,” Goudy said.

Now working as a bus driver for Marietta City Schools, Goudy lives in one of the two-story, two-bedroom apartments because she originally planned to live with her nephew, who did not end up moving in.

“I pay a bit more, but I like the space,” she said.

Goudy said the only real trouble she’s faced is neighbors, where disagreements can take place.

“There’s concerns about some of the renters. My outlook is different because I’m a school bus driver,” she said. “Because of the kids I deal with a lot parents. I see some sides of people that other people don’t. Because of that, I do have concerns.”

Goudy said although she’s had some neighbors who’ve created problems, she always turns around to find another neighbor willing to help her out.

Shea reported that Colonial Terrace usually runs at about 95 percent capacity. With a high volume of people.

Responsiveness, Goudy said, is one thing the complex accomplishes that has kept her there so many years. She even had maintenance help get a bird out of her house that had gotten in.

“They do take the extra step,” she said. “If I didn’t like it, I would have left. If you take care of your place, they’re thrilled to take care of you.”

Shea said that oftentimes, because of the screening process as well as the hard work they put into upkeep, the apartments can be safer and better off than places not associated with Section 8.

“We can do anything to prep for an inspection,” she said, noting that very small things, often unexpected, can throw off inspection scores that are done in one, two and three-year increments based on a project’s history. “But we know we perform a good service.”

Misty Stanley, a Marietta native who returned to the area after spending time in South Carolina, has lived at Colonial Terrace for 13 years, and has two daughters. She said the stigma placed on subsidized housing isn’t fair, believing that a home is what you make of it.

“Is living in an apartment an ideal place for your whole life? Maybe not, but it’s my home,” she said. “It’s the perfect space for my small family.”

Stanley said living right next to people can be difficult, but her children have a nice community to grow up in with plenty of places to play.

“I live on a fixed income and it’s what I can afford, and it’s a fine place,” she said.

Colonial Terrace is one community that is a subsidized income project focused on families, a contrast to the voucher program residents can seek help with through Washington-Morgan Community Action. Rent for eligible households is subsidized at 30 percent of household income.

Often, people who climb out of the need for assistance will stay. They must qualify upon applying, but if they experience an increase in income, they can stay and pay regular rent.

“This place is a stepping stone for a lot of people,” Shea said,

Colonial Terrace is the umbrella name for the whole complex, which is divided into three contracted sections, Colonial Terrace I, Colonial Terrace II and Colonial Village, which are all in the same area but were developed at separate times by the owner and are inspected separately by HUD.

HUD’s most recent inspection scores were recorded using inspection data from 2001 to 2009. All three contracted properties were inspected in 2009. Colonial Terrace I received an inspection score of 72.77 out of 100. Colonial Terrace II received a score of 61.41, and Colonial Village received a score of 81.02. A recent inspection just this month proved to be a big jump in the right direction, as the whole complex received a 93.

Colonial employees would not disclose which categories brought the earlier scores down. The Marietta Times had requested the information from HUD but not yet received it.

Applications run on a waiting list, which Shea said is usually around 3 to 5 months on average. She often even recruits families to be on the waiting list.

“I think there are a lot of families out there that could utilize this place,” Shea said. “But it can be put off by people who need it.”

Goudy said she never felt the need to live anywhere else.

“I don’t know what others’ say about it…but this place has been a Godsend for me,” she said.