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Housing Authority Wants To Break Cycle Of Crime, Poverty In Public Housing

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal grants are already in place to improve two public housing developments in Raleigh and Durham. Now, housing officials want to give a third complex a complete makeover.

The Raleigh Housing Authority said the apartments at Chavis Heights are not worth renovating. It wants to build a brand-new neighborhood, one it said will help families in public housing break the cycle of poverty.

Ruthie Smith has lived in Chavis Heights for 50 years. She does not want to leave her neighborhood, no matter what improvements the housing authority promises to make.

"I don't know where they would put us, and they'd take all the time they need to put us back together," she said.

Other residents support the idea, but are worried about what will happen to them during the transition.

The 60-year-old apartments at Chavis Heights are full of asbestos and lead-based paint. They do not have air conditioning or reliable heat.Experts said barracks-style apartments represent the old way of thinking about public housing.

"The desire is not to put all poor folks in one area like they did in the 30s," said Steve Beam of the Raleigh Housing Authority.

The housing authority promises it will take care of everyone, like they did when they demolished Halifax Court.

Before it was torn down, police logged 1,500 calls to 300 apartments at Halifax Court in one year.

The change will be about more than bricks and mortar for the people who move in there. The housing authority is helping them find jobs during a time when Wake County's unemployment rate has nearly tripled.

"During that time, our non-elderly, non-disabled Halifax Court residents went from average employment rate of 47 percent to 72 percent," said Beam.

Halifax Court will reopen in the fall as a mix of subsidized and market rate apartments and homes.


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