No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

Council considers public housing plans


The Fayetteville City Council heard a few ideas regarding sources of revenue other than the federal government for public housing, and a contract to sell one of the Housing Authority’s properties came into question July 24.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan called a special meeting July 24 to get input from the council, Housing Authority officials, residents and their neighbors on the future of public housing in the city. Nearly 30 people spoke, with the meeting lasting until about 10 p.m.

Jordan said early in the meeting he did not want to jeopardize the Housing Authority receiving the money it needs for capital improvements. The authority is set to receive $281,425 from the federal government this year and needs Jordan’s signature by the end of the month to receive it.

For more than a year, the Housing Authority has had a plan to move residents out of public housing at Willow Heights, 10 S. Willow Ave., and move them to another property it operates, Morgan Manor, at 324 E. 12th Place. Housing Authority board meetings in recent months have been packed, with members of the public at odds with the plan and how the board conducts its meetings.

Morgan Manor operates under a form of Section 8 called the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. The program combines public and private equity to provide assistance to low-income residents. The Housing Authority also owns Lewis Plaza at 401 S. Lewis Ave. and Hillcrest Towers at 1 N. School Ave.

The timeline on signing the contract for Willow Heights came up frequently. The authority is under contract to sell the property for $1.25 million to a private landowner. The contract was signed before an appraisal was made, Housing Authority officials said.

City Attorney Kit Williams also recommended the Housing Authority get out of the contract. He also recommended the Housing Authority abandon any pursuits, including RAD conversion, that would jeopardize the possibility of receiving grants.

For instance, Yolanda Fields, director of the city’s Community Resources Division, said Community Development Block Grant money couldn’t be used for Willow Heights because it is under contract.

Council recommendations included a resident engagement plan, more clearly defining the authority’s goals, developing a plan to reach out to nonprofits and other agencies for assistance, clarifying its policy on deconcentrating poverty and others.

The council also recommended the authority prioritize homeless people for housing vouchers.

Public comment ranged from replacing the Housing Authority board to testaments from public housing residents about living conditions.

Jennifer Cole said living in public housing is not a choice, and everyone deserves a decent place to live.

“These funds need to go to the upkeep and maintenance of these places,” she said.

Jordan said he will make a decision on the plan and recommended changes after the Housing Authority’s next meeting.

“We’re going to make it better. We don’t know exactly how yet, folks, but we’re going to make it better. But it starts with these recommendations,” he said.

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