George Saldana didn't let a little rain dampen his enthusiasm for Horizon Village.

"The vision is finally becoming a reality," the director of North Charleston Housing Authority said Wednesday after darting under a balcony of one of the units. The 484 units of public and private housing will begin to be occupied by mid-June.

The $71 million project on the 68-acre site of what once was the barbed wire-enclosed North Park Village public housing project should be completed by September.

The first 80 rental units will be ready by June, and 23 of the 130 houses designated for homeownership have been snapped up already.

"The houses will be identical to the rental units, except owners can choose inside features of their homes such as carpet or hardwood floors," said Mary Lynn Sox, Hope VI coordinator for the housing authority.

Those homes available for sale will cost between $135,000 and $185,000, and 80 of those must go to low- to moderate-income residents.

Applications from former residents of the old 545-unit complex will be considered first for the new subdivision between Rivers and Spruill avenues. They must meet background checks for criminal, credit and rental history, Sox said.

Between 5 percent and 10 percent of the 250 applications so far are from previous residents, Sox said.

Former residents who want to come back also must meet goals they set for themselves more than five years ago when the rundown North Park Village, the largest public housing project in the state, was torn down.

Among those goals were learning to drive, earning a general equivalency diploma or getting a job.

"The goal is to make them self-sufficient," Saldana said.

He added that public housing has a stigma of being for the poor who don't pay rent, but many of the units in Horizon Village will require payments based on income so the Housing Authority does not create an environment for the uneducated and criminal element. "They have to meet the criteria," Saldana said.

In addition to the homes for sale and public housing units, the complex, with newly paved streets carved around a finger of Noisette Creek, will have a four-story, 56-unit building called The Manor and a three-story, 48-unit building called Marshside Village. Both are senior citizens' units sit and along Spruill Avenue and are nearing completion.

Underground utilities, lampposts and palm trees will create an area that residents will be proud to call home, Saldana said.

"This will probably be the best affordable-housing community in North Charleston," he said.

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