Public housing

Durham Housing Authority faces backlash over public housing project ::

New development plans have been announced for Haiti’s historic community, but backlash is mounting from many who have called it home for decades.

A group protests against the Durham Housing Authority’s decision to build council housing on vacant land known as Fayette Place.

Fayette Place has been an eyesore for over a decade. It’s about 20 acres of land that’s been fenced in for way too long.

With the new changes on the horizon, community members are asking the housing authority to consider different plans to help move the area forward.

It was a once bustling area, now filled with overgrown weeds and crumbling concrete slabs.

“Hayti means a lot to me because I grew up basically on the corner of Fayetteville where my dad ran his business,” said Melvin Speight, who grew up in the Hayti neighborhood.

Speight remembers when the historic community was booming.

“It was a good autonomous community. We had just about everything we needed without leaving the community. I saw the growth of the community, the entrepreneurs, the wealth,” he added.

But new businesses and wealth are no longer part of the community now. So when the opportunity to rebuild Fayette Place presented itself, many were initially enthusiastic.

Speight is now a board member of Hayti Reborn. An organization focused on promoting equitable and tangible change.

“The direction in which they are going now is not pleasant to me. Simply because it looks like there will be more of the same,” said Hilda Smith.

Smith had lived in the community of Fayette Place between 1956 and 1988.

She said the DHA’s chosen proposal was something the city had tried before.

“Many, many people have huddled together in an apartment complex instead of having the opportunity to own something. Have a legacy. To bequeath future generations to their families. Being able to own a business. To own an apartment that they live in,” she said.

The DHA has approved a $470 million redevelopment plan, part of which includes building hundreds of affordable apartments in Fayette Place.

The group, Hayti Reborn, sent in a written protest – calling for a lack of community input, consideration of fairness, land use and lack of due process.

“There were no investigations. No leaflets. Just nothing. I don’t think the process was fair. In fact, it wasn’t fair. It only seems like a few had the power to make a decision,” Smiths said.

“I would like to see businesses. Not just housing. Banks. Groceries. A small mini mall. Green area. Hair salons,” she added.

“We know housing is important, but storing people has never served its purpose,” Speight added.

Dr. Henry McKoy, an NCCU professor who directs Hayti Reborn, submitted a different plan that included less housing and more mixed-use opportunities.

He reinvented Fayette Place as a future hub for black businesses and stock research.

“The highest and best use of this land is to be able to use it as an upward mobility key for future change in economic development without gentrification,” McKoy said.

“Hayti Reborn had over 50 organizations and leaders from the private sector to the public sector. All these different types of people around the table. So it clearly showed that there is a desire on the part of the boarding community to see something like this,” he said, describing his proposal which was not selected by the DHA.

They are calling on the housing authority to reconsider their proposal and allow the community to have a say in how this site is developed and who does it.

“Our protest is basically to take another look. Reschedule and do it right,” Speight added.

The DHA sent WRAL News a statement:

“The selection process was based on the criteria outlined in the RFP and HUD and DHA policies. DHA will respond to the bid challenge accordingly and has no further comment at this time.

The proposals were reviewed by an 11-person committee consisting of six DHA staff members, three city and county representatives, one community representative and one DHA resident.

The winner was a proposal from Durham Development Partners, a partnership between F7 International Development, Greystone Affordable Development and Gilbane Development Company, companies based in Raleigh and Rhode Island. »