Groups say Raleigh Housing Authority plans will create ‘less opportunity, more segregation’

ccampbell@newsobserver.comFebruary 24, 2014 

— The N.C. Justice Center, UNC Center for Civil Rights and other organizations are calling on federal housing officials to reject the Raleigh Housing Authority’s plans to drop 175 public housing units.

Housing authority director Steve Beam says federal funding cuts have prompted his plan to turn 60 units of subsidized housing for low-income residents at Capitol Park near downtown into market-rate homes with rents of up to $1,100 a month.

The proposal – which the Raleigh City Council signed off on last month – also calls for selling 115 single-family homes that have been used for public housing.

Beam plans to give Section 8 vouchers to public-housing residents in Capitol Park, which will allow them to remain in their homes or seek subsidized housing elsewhere.

“The replacement of this infrastructure of 175 units with vouchers will, in our opinion, result in less opportunity for extremely low-income families and more segregation both by race and incomes,” the Justice Center and others wrote in the letter, which was submitted to the federal Housing and Urban Development agency last week.

Bill Rowe, director of advocacy for the N.C. Justice Center, said the housing authority needs to look at other options for addressing budget cuts.

“What our hope is is that there could be more dialogue about what’s going on and what’s needed in the city regarding housing for low-income people,” he said. “What we think is lacking is, what other alternatives do we have? What can Raleigh do?”

Rowe said his organization – along with the Center for Civil Rights, Congregations for Social Justice and Legal Aid of North Carolina, which also signed the letter – grew concerned after the Raleigh City Council voted 7-1 in favor of Beam’s plan after only an hour or so of debate.

“It worried folks that it got done with very little discussion, and what people really want is an opportunity to have a longer dialogue,” Rowe said.

The letter says that the housing authority’s shift toward more Section 8 vouchers will force low-income renters out of more affluent areas of Raleigh.

The complaint also takes issue with the housing authority’s plan to sell the 60 Capitol Park units to its nonprofit affiliate for $300,000 – a fraction of the assessed tax value and a “troubling” price.

Beam plans to use the proceeds from selling Capitol Park units and the single-family homes toward the redevelopment of Walnut Terrace, where a mixed-income community of public housing and market-rate homes is under construction.

The Justice Center and partner organizations see that as an unreasonable trade-off.

“We do not think Raleigh has to lose 175 public housing units in order to develop 143 units at Walnut Terrace, where about 300 public housing units were demolished,” the complaint says.

“Raleigh needs more units of housing for extremely low-income families throughout the city. RHA’s Plan will not accomplish that and will actually diminish the efforts made to date.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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