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Big things in store for affordable public housing in downtown Durham

EJP assists clients with increasing affordable and mixed-income housing without displacing current residents. EJP led the master planning process to develop DHA Downtown and Neighborhood Plan and continues to provide program management and implementation support to DHA to implement the plan.

More than 5,000 people are on the waiting list for public housing in Durham according to the Durham Housing Authority.

Work is happening right now to triple the number of affordable homes downtown.

Downtown Durham only has 450 public housing apartment units according to DHA.

But that number will grow.

The Durham Housing Authority is building or redeveloping 1,700 housing units across at least eight new projects.

Anthony Scott, CEO of DHA says 47% of them will be restricted to public housing.

The other 53% will be rented at the market rate.

Scott said no existing public housing tenant will be displaced.

"We have an extra commitment, and that is no unit in this downtown plan would move outside of downtown," said Scott. "We don't want to build large pockets of poverty. Let's build it so that it's a mix of income."

All 214 units at Liberty Street apartments on East Main will be torn down and rebuilt with 550 units with retail space and a grocery store.

Across the street, the parking lot between Durham Police Headquarters and Social Services is slated for development.

DHA headquarters down the street will turn into a mix of office and residential space.

Near the Durham Bulls Ball Park, Forest Hills Apartments on Mangum Street will get an upgrade.

Those 55 units will become 700 affordable and market-rate units with retail options.

And then there's the controversial land in Hayti.

DHA is moving forward with developers on this project despite objections from the development group Hayti Reborn, who earlier this year wrote a formal 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 the city council and Mayor Elaine O'Neal to get involved.

Also by the ballpark, a four-story public housing development is going up.

Next to it, is JJ Henderson Tower for seniors.

DHA says 177 units are undergoing renovations.

"I didn't realize it was going to look like this," said Martha Kenion, a 67-year-old grandmother who showed us the renovations to her kitchen that featured upgraded appliances. She pointed out that the living room and bedroom had been expanded, the walls were repainted and the floors resurfaced.

"When I walked in I said, wow. I was speechless," she said.

Kenion has lived here for a decade and has seen it age. She's concerned for people she knows her age and older who are looking for an affordable place to live.

"This is all I have. If they have developers that could understand that, Durham would be a greater place to stay," said Kenion.

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

But once they start, Scott says they'll take about 16 to 18 months to be completed.

A lot of this is funded through public and private partnerships, and the $95 million housing bond voters approved in 2019.

By Tim Pulliam

Thursday, April 21, 2022


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