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Durham's Public Housing Project Suffers Setbacks

Posted August 17, 2007

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— Bare brick buildings and chain link fences – that’s what public housing used to be. Not anymore.

Raleigh's oldest housing project under a federal program is now part of the new downtown revitalization. The housing authority completed the project in record time. Durham is trying to do the same, but it's taking twice as long.

It is slow movement  for a project with a muddied past. In 2003, crews started tearing down the Few Gardens public housing project. Four years later, work on a new neighborhood has just begun to take shape.

“It’s roughly two years behind schedule,” said Terrance Gerald, economic development director of the Durham Housing Authority.

The Hope VI project, as it’s called because of the federal program supporting it, stands in stark contrast to two in Raleigh in that program. That city's oldest public housing complex, Halifax Court, is filled with villas and single-family homes. Chavis Heights is nearly complete.

Crews spent 3½ years on each project. Raleigh could begin work on a third project before Durham is done with Few Gardens, which is expected to have 83 rental units and 42 single-family houses.

“It has a lot to do with partners, getting the right sources and commitments. And that's key,” Gerald said.

The deadline for Durham’s project is December, but housing officials recently asked for an extension to 2009. Some of it is due to increased cost for construction materials and labor. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development also put the project on hold for more than a year while investigating millions in misspent money at Durham's Housing Authority.

“What I always do is send pictures of the progress and send e-mails asking if anyone has questions or concerns,” Gerald said.

New management is in place. They insist transparency is their policy.

DHA came under scrutiny in 2003 and 2004 after missing construction deadlines. Then-director James Tabron resigned after it was revealed he had used a business credit card for personal purchases.

In 2004, HUD put the Few Gardens/Hope VI project on hold while it investigated DHA. That stop-work order lasted a little over a year.

New management was put in place in 2005. In late 2005, they got a federal OK to restart the project. At the end of July of this year, crews began pouring foundations and putting up frames for the new housing.

It will be a mixed-housing area. Some units will be owned, and others will be government-subsidized.

While the project is still behind schedule, several Hope VI projects across the country have run 10 years past due.

11 Comments

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  • Darren Aug 19, 2007

    "The subjugation of our freedom from any external coercion in exchange for a more orderly rule of law is at the heart of the social compact he envisioned, and which influenced our founding fathers in their conception of the Constitution."

    Locke and the Constitution were certainly better than the tyranny so prevalent at that time, but again, I'd be foolish to base my philosophy on a document as political and as philosophically inconsistent as the Constitution. And why do you assume Locke should hold a special place in the basis of my philosophy?

    "Sorry, but the position you're advocating is an extreme one, and it has absolutely no chance of ever surviving on the political stage."

    Couldn't that be a fault of the 'political stage' rather than my 'extreme' position?

    "(Can you imagine a productive society with free-flowing goods and services and economic gain for all in a world without any of the 'coerced' public services you describe?)"

    Yes. Yes, I most certainly can.

  • Durham-Raleigh Aug 19, 2007

    No Coercion: I'd suggest a close textual reading of Locke's Second Treatise. The subjugation of our freedom from any external coercion in exchange for a more orderly rule of law is at the heart of the social compact he envisioned, and which influenced our founding fathers in their conception of the Constitution.

    Sorry, but the position you're advocating is an extreme one, and it has absolutely no chance of ever surviving on the political stage. (Can you imagine a productive society with free-flowing goods and services and economic gain for all in a world without any of the 'coerced' public services you describe?)

    And as a matter of fact, I've been more exposed to these ideas than I'd care to have to admit.

    All of which is off-subject for the discussion at hand, however.

  • Darren Aug 19, 2007

    "Actually, this quasi-13th Amendment argument has been looked at by the courts in the past and rejected, but thanks for playing."

    Wow. If I based my philosophy on court decisions instead of logic I'd really be in trouble!

    "Of course, the argument you're making would imply that public education, health, transportation, road construction, etc. aren't appropriate either."

    That's exactly right. They're not appropriate. As with housing, NO ONE has a right to education, health care, transportation, or anything else that requires the forcible taking of property/money from someone. The only thing you can have a natural right to is the right not to be coercively interfered with.

    "No need to join a debate if one's position is so far off the deep end of political reality."

    Interesting. Are you that afraid of positions so different from your own? That's really unfortunate for your continued intellectual development. Perhaps you'll eventually mature.

  • Durham-Raleigh Aug 18, 2007

    "You can't have a natural right to something that involves taking from someone else--that would imply you have the natural right to someone else's body, time, and money (which of course you don't)."

    Actually, this quasi-13th Amendment argument has been looked at by the courts in the past and rejected, but thanks for playing. Of course, the argument you're making would imply that public education, health, transportation, road construction, etc. aren't appropriate either.

    No need to join a debate if one's position is so far off the deep end of political reality. Though there are lots of right-wing stations broadcasting on shortwave that carry such tripe, and'll even sell you precious metals or survivalist lots while you're at it. Woo-hoo!

  • Darren Aug 18, 2007

    Tax-subsidized housing should be eliminated entirely and immediately. The Department of Housing and Urban Development should be disbanded. No one has a natural right to housing. You can't have a natural right to something that involves taking from someone else--that would imply you have the natural right to someone else's body, time, and money (which of course you don't). And because subsidizing a thing makes the recipients of it value it less, no net good will ever come of housing projects.

  • the river rat Aug 18, 2007

    "It will be a mixed-housing area. Some units will be owned, and others will be government-subsidized."

    Why would anyone buy a home in a mixed housing area? Are there loan guarantees or financial incentives?

  • clickclackity2 Aug 17, 2007

    No excuses, Durham has had and continues to have a lack of competent leaders.

  • onyourheels2 Aug 17, 2007

    if you have a chance to get out of durham, get out.

  • Polar-Bear Aug 17, 2007

    I think the length of time between elimination and rebuilding works as an advantage. It allows the people that were there causing all the mischief and trouble time to relocate and establish new habits and hang-outs. This should give the rebuilt area a chance to overcome past downfalls. You have to at least be optimistic. Anyone can be pessimistic and cynical. Give it a chance.

  • Durham-Raleigh Aug 17, 2007

    This article is extraordinarily misleading. Is the Few Gardens redevelopment delayed? Yes. But has Durham completed block, after block, after block, of Hope VI and other redevelopment, from E. Main St. to the area east of the Hosiery Mills to Eastway Village?

    Yes.

    I am astounded that a firm that invests so much in downtown Durham has such scarcely competent coverage of the Bull City. What, do the last three letters of WRAL stand for 'Raleigh' or something?

    Oh, wait.

    Ms. Lewis, has WRAL covered Eastway Village or any of the *successfully* completed Hope VI work in Durham?

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