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First bit of Durham affordable housing bond money used to replace complex near downtown

EJP led the nine-site master planning effort and now serves as Development Advisor to the Durham Housing Authority for the implementation of the Downtown Durham Neighborhood Plan (DDNP), of which Liberty Street Apartments is one of the first phases.

By Sarah Krueger, WRAL Durham reporter

DURHAM, N.C. — Two years after Durham voters overwhelmingly approved a $95 million affordable housing bond, some of the money is finally being spent.

The Liberty Street Apartments public housing complex east of downtown is the first redevelopment project using bond money, Durham Housing Authority Chief Executive Anthony Scott said. The complex will be torn down and replaced with mixed-income housing in five phases in the coming years.

"Our housing is old. It’s falling apart," Scott said. "This gives us a chance to rebuild those communities in a way we’d all like to see, and most importantly, they are going to be built and financed in a way that ensures their long-term viability – one of the things we struggle with mightily in our public housing."

The first phase of the Liberty Street project will cost about $20 million, with $2.5 million coming from the bond. The rest is a mix of bank financing and federal tax credits, he said.

"It will fit in with the new housing that’s being built in Durham. It’s a mixed-income community, so it will have wide ranges of folks who are living there, from public housing residents to market-rate residents," Scott said. "When you look at the plans, you’ll see great open space, play areas, a gym – all the kinds of things that you typically find in an apartment community here in Durham."

The Liberty Street residents whose apartments are being torn down have been moved to other DHA properties, such as the Laurel Oaks Apartments complex, off Cornwallis Road, or the new Willard Street Apartments complex, near the American Tobacco Complex.

Liberty Street Apartments in Durham

Although some of Liberty Street's existing units will be replaced with market-rate apartments, Scott said the Durham Housing Authority will keep 447 public housing units downtown – the same number that are now there.

"We are moving them around so we can get a greater mix of incomes and a greater mix of finances coming in, which allows those properties to be able to be maintained, structurally [and] financially, throughout their lifetime," he said.

A lack of maintenance has led to numerous problems at Durham Housing Authority sites in recent years, from carbon monoxide issues in dozens of McDougald Terrace units to roach infestations and mold elsewhere.

Durham resident Ellen Cooper, who voted for the bond referendum, said she's glad the money is being put to good use because the city needs more affordable housing.

"The cost of housing in Durham and the surrounding area has just skyrocketed over the past couple years," Cooper said. "I know many friends of mine, we don’t make a lot of money, and [other] people make less money than I do. It’s hard to find decent housing."


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