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Durham Housing Authority: Plans to change McDougald Terrace a year away

Durham Housing Authority must substantially renovate or shut down the largest and oldest public housing complex in the city.

Posted Updated

Aaron Thomas & Joe Fisher
, WRAL reporters
DURHAM, N.C. — Significant changes are coming to Durham's McDougald Terrace, with housing leaders discussing whether to partially shut down the complex in phases for major renovations or completely shut down to demolish the complex.

Around 800 people, or 300 families, currently live in McDougald Terrace.

Durham Housing Authority must substantially renovate or shut down the largest and oldest public housing complex in the city, per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While no final decision has been made, Anthony Scott, head of DHA, said it would likely be way too expensive to renovate the the complex.

In a Thursday morning press conference, Scott said a "solid plan" is not yet in place, as the DHA has one year to submit a plan to HUD.

"Let's have this conversation a year from now," Scott told reporters asking what would happen to the housing complex.

Officials: timeline unclear for when residents have to move out of McDougald Terrace

Residents are wondering if they will have to leave their homes. It is still unknown if McDougald Terrace will be renovated or demolished, but either way, some residents will need to be relocated in the coming years.

Scott said, in the past, some communities have only moved out half of their residents while the other half of the complex is renovated. Then, the other half is moved out so the renovation can be completed. It is still to early to know what will happen at McDougald Terrace.

"I'm sad because this is my community," said resident Laura Betye, who has lived at the complex for 15 years. "No matter how hard you try to renovate and patch, there have been thousands of people living here. It's a work in progress but always issues [are] coming up."

Among the options housing officials are considering is having residents move out so that they can demolish the current complex and rebuild. Community leaders are asking residents not to panic.

"The residents of McDougald Terrace are not being forced out by the end of this year. Absolutely not. What has to be submitted by the end of this year is a plan for what's going to happen to the development. Once that's plan is submitted, another year-long clock starts for moving folks out," said Durham Mayor Pro-Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton.

Federal law requires Durham to find a place for residents to stay

Since McDougald Terrace is public housing, DHA will be required to find housing for residents if they must move out. Residents could either be moved into vacant units already run by DHA, or residents will get vouchers for other public housing options.

"By federal law, [residents] have to be accommodated," said Middleton.

However, 200 families are already waiting for public housing vouchers in Durham, and Scott said adding 300 to that number will be a strain.

Residents said the possible plans have caught them by surprise.

"I'm hoping that we can find somewhere that we can afford to stay. If we can't, I don't know — I haven't made it that far yet," said resident Anthony McLendon, who has lived at the complex for eight years.

"We don't know where we're going but I'm assured DHA will ensure that everyone has a place to go ... I'm as eager as everybody to find out what's in store for us [and] what's in store for the future," Betye said.

Another option is to sell to private developers who could redevelop as public housing.

"I'm praying for everybody out here that everybody needs to get a backup plan," said McLendon.

DHA has spent $6 million since Jan. 2020 to improve McDougald Terrace, including include issues with carbon monoxide poisoning.

WRAL Investigates found that between November 2019 through January 2020, more than a dozen McDougald Terrace residents had to go to area hospitals due to elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Sixty-one percent of the apartment complex's units were found to have at least one faulty appliance that needed to be repaired or replaced to eliminate the issue.

"We do need this housing. I'm on a fixed income. I can't afford to go nowhere else to stay right now," said McLendon.


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