Public housing

Big things in store for affordable social housing in Durham city center

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) – More than 5,000 people are on the waiting list for public housing in Durham according to the Durham Housing Authority.

Work is underway to triple the number of affordable housing units downtown.

Durham city center has only 450 social housing units according to the DHA.

But this number will increase.

The Durham Housing Authority is building or redeveloping 1,700 homes in at least eight new projects.

Anthony Scott, CEO of DHA, said 47% of them will be limited to social housing.

The remaining 53% will be leased at market price.

Scott said no existing public housing tenants will be moved.

“We have an additional commitment, and that is that no units in this downtown plan would move outside of downtown,” Scott said. “We don’t want to create big pockets of poverty. Let’s build it up so it’s a mix of income.”

The 214 units of Liberty Street apartments on East Main will be demolished and rebuilt with 550 units with retail space and a grocery store.

Across the street, parking between Durham Police Headquarters and Social Services should be arranged.

The DHA headquarters across the street will transform into a mix of office and residential spaces.

Near Durham Bulls Ball Park, Forest Hills apartments on Mangum Street will be upgraded.

These 55 units will become 700 affordable, market-priced units with retail options.

And then there is the controversial land of Haiti.

DHA is moving forward with the developers on this project despite objections from development group Hayti Reborn, which earlier this year wrote an official letter protesting DHA’s decision to go with another developer, citing the agency violated its own policy and left them out of the process.

DHA denied the claim last month.

Hayti Reborn is now asking City Council and Mayor Elaine O’Neal to get involved.

Also near the stadium, a four-story housing estate is being built.

Next door is the JJ Henderson Tower for seniors.

DHA says 177 units are being renovated.

“I had no idea it was going to look like this,” said Martha Kenion, a 67-year-old grandmother who showed us her kitchen renovations with upgraded appliances. She pointed out that the living room and bedroom had been extended, the walls had been repainted and the floors had been redone.

“When I walked in I said, wow. I was speechless,” she said.

Kenion has lived here for a decade and has watched it grow old. She worries about people she knows her age and older who are looking for affordable housing.

“That’s all I have. If they had developers who could figure this out, Durham would be a better place to stay,” Kenion said.

The DHA said there have been challenges related to COVID-19 in starting construction on some of its projects.

But once they start, Scott says it will take about 16 to 18 months to complete.

Much of this is funded through public and private partnerships, and the $95 million in housing bonds approved by voters in 2019

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