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College of Social Work


SmartHOME Ribbon Cutting

SmartHOME Center Helps Open Renovated House

Nov. 19, 2018
By Chris Woodley, cwoodley@mailbox.sc.edu

Six months ago, the house at 3613 Judy St. in the Trenholm Acres neighborhood of Northeast Columbia was boarded up and in dilapidated condition. But instead of demolition, the house received a complete renovation thanks to a collaboration involving the University of South Carolina’s SmartHOME Center.

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the completion of the home renovation were held on Friday, Nov. 16. The renovation was part of the SC UpLift Community Outreach Legacy Home Renovation Project for Older Adults. In addition to SC UpLift and UofSC SmartHOME, the collaborative effort included the Richland County Community Development and Palmetto Health.

College of Social Work Assistant Professor Shaun Owens is the director for strategy and innovation for UofSC SmartHOME. The center is focused on helping older adults remain healthy and independent by developing technologies that enable individuals to remain at home with adequate support and advance the quality of life for South Carolinians.

“Walking into the house today was very inspirational, and I thought, ‘Wow, we made this happen and turned a concept into reality,’” said Owens. “Back in May, this dilapidated property seemed to have no promise. But instead, we took what we thought was a promising project and turned it into a gem. It’s a testament to what we can achieve when we work together with others.”

SC UpLift Legacy Home for Older Adults is a universal designed two-bedroom, one-bath home designated as an affordable senior rental property. The home features multiple technologies enabling an older adult to age in place with features such as, energy efficiency appliances, anti-fatigue flooring to prevent fall-related injuries, and a security and automation system. A telehealth system allows the homeowner to be connected live via a smart TV with a Palmetto Health physician within 15 minutes. In addition, the home will be wired to incorporate future technologies.

The home is currently available for occupancy to a senior age 62 or older whose income is 60 percent or below Area Median Income. SC UpLift Community Outreach is a federally exempt community development corporation providing affordable housing for low to moderate income individuals and families.

“At our groundbreaking ceremony in May, this was an eyesore and a boarded up uninhabitable home,” said Kevin Wimberly, Founder and CEO of SC UpLift. “It was on the list to be demolished but through the work of the Richland County Community Development and Richland County Code Enforcement, we were able to take a lemon of a home off the demolition list and make lemonade.”

According to Owens, this is the first time UofSC SmartHOME collaborated with SC Uplift. There was some previous community-based research, but they had never worked with another organization to develop a large-scale project.

“This will not be the last time we will work with SC Uplift to renovate a house, especially seeing what we are capable of now,” said Owens. “This model will also show others what is possible.”