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Durham Housing Authority to build and improve thousands of affordable housing units in Durham

<p>“Gentrification is real in this city, and we just want to make sure that we’re sensitive to those homeowners who have been here for a really long time,” said Janeen Gordon, assistant director for Durham County aging &amp; adult services.</p>

“Gentrification is real in this city, and we just want to make sure that we’re sensitive to those homeowners who have been here for a really long time,” said Janeen Gordon, assistant director for Durham County aging & adult services.

The Durham Housing Authority Downtown and Neighborhood Plan is taking shape after being announced in January 2019. 

DHA aims to either build or improve 2,513 housing units throughout Durham by replacing existing public housing units or constructing new market rate housing. These mixed-income units will be constructed in and around downtown Durham, and will increase the residential density in certain areas.

“One of the things that came up often was ‘why don’t you just build those units outside of the downtown area where it’s cheaper to build?’ My response was ‘why would we deny the people who’ve been living in the downtown area for decades?’” DHA CEO Anthony Scott said. “Why should they now have to leave downtown, when it’s beginning to have many more amenities? It’s a more bustling, exciting place to be.”

Home prices have been rising in Durham County, with a staggering 30.8% jump between December 2020 and December 2021. The DHA hopes the plan can provide affordable housing units to keep residents in Durham.

“The announcement of Google and Apple is bringing in very, very high dollar jobs. That doesn’t help the folks that are already here working in jobs that don’t have high levels of income appreciation,” Scott said. “Rents, of course, are going up while incomes are staying the same - and that’s for the people that are actually employed.”

The DHA is tied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program called Rental Assistance Demonstration. RAD mandates that rent prices for housing units that are replaced are based on 30% of the tenant’s income and that current public housing residents will not be denied from any replacement unit. 

In the second phase of the DDNP, two Durham Development Partners were chosen for three sites. Greystone Affordable Development and Gilbane Development Company were tasked with developing the Fayette Place and the DHA Office and Criminal Justice Resource Center sites. The Integral Group, LLC is tasked with the redevelopment of the Forest Hill Heights site. In total, these sites will create over 1,700 residential units over 37 acres. 900 of these units will be priced at 30 to 80% of the Area Median Income. 

The DHA received 12 development proposals for the three sites, and an 11-person committee was charged with reviewing and selecting which proposals to use. 

 “[The] review panel went through and ranked the proposals just as they were written. Following that, they then did interviews with the top two candidates for each site. Based on the interview, they would rewrite the proposals again and then select the best choice based on the criteria that was given,” Scott said.

The DDNP is currently in its final phase of implementation. Outside of the newly announced sites, the DHA is constructing and restoring housing units at Oldham, Liberty Street, Hunt Street, Southside Phase III and J.J Henderson. In total, there are 171 studios, 1,342 one-bedroom apartments, 763 two-bedroom apartments, and 237 three-bedroom apartments being developed. The majority of units will be priced in the 30%-80% AMI range, with other units being priced at the mandated 30% AMI replacement range or at market-rate. 

One of these developments, Willard Street Apartments, is being touted as the new standard for affordable housing in Durham.

“The 82 units that will be built at J.J. Henderson need to be and will be at this standard. The units that will be at Liberty Street need to be and will be at this standard,” former Durham Mayor Steve Schewel told ABC11.

“I can just hear the quiver in my voice. When I put my key in the door for the first two weeks, I had goosebumps,” said Renee Valentine, a new resident on the top floor of the Willard Street Apartments, to ABC11. “It was important to me because this is a big part of the restart. The redesign of the resilient Renee Valentine.”


Jazper Lu | Local National News Editor

Jazper Lu is a Trinity sophomore and local national news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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