Housing authority wants city’s support for transformation project


The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem has asked the city to invest $4.5 million to support a $30 million federal grant to transform the Cleveland Avenue Homes community, but council members want more details about case management services to support the relocation of residents.

Some members of Winston-Salem City Council want more clarity about plans to relocate residents of the Cleveland Avenue Homes public housing community before committing city funds to support a $30 million grant request from the federal government by the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem to revitalize the area.

During its meeting on Monday, the finance committee of city council considered a request by the housing authority to commit $4.5 million over a six-year period to pay for improvements like neighborhood business façade improvements, revolving loan funds for business attraction and retention, streetscaping and so-called “place-making projects.” The housing authority is also requesting that the city serve as the “neighborhood lead” agency for promoting public and private reinvestment in the targeted area, which is wedged between Cleveland Avenue and Liberty Street to the north of 14th Street and south of 21st Street. The city’s investment would support the housing authority’s transformation plan through a Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant from the federal government.

Councilman Derwin Montgomery expressed concern that the city needs to have a binding agreement from the housing authority for adequate case management to assist residents with relocation before they are asked to move out of Cleveland Avenue Homes.

“In other conversations with the [US Department of Housing & Urban Development] and the housing authority, there are things that we’ve talked about that didn’t actually happen,” Montgomery said. “There are some cities in which we’ve seen across the country [where] communities are revitalized and there’s displacement that takes place when there’s a lack of full-service case management.

“What you do in effect when people are displaced — communities are broken,” Montgomery continued. “Communities lend themselves to resolve issues. When you dismantle those neighborhoods and displace people, you have removed some of the opportunities in neighborhoods that suppress issues before we have to call the police and have something that’s really problematic.”

Councilwoman Denise D. Adams and Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke expressed enthusiasm for the project, while joining Montgomery in calling for more specifics.

Mayor Allen Joines, who convened a “thought force” to address poverty earlier this year, likened the initiative to past efforts to transform the Kimberly Park and Happy Hill Gardens public housing communities into townhomes through Hope VI federal funds in the 1990s.

“I think it has the potential to be tremendously impactful in our efforts to address poverty and housing conditions, and really creating a stronger core area in which to grow,” Joines said. “I’ll be very supportive of this.”

Housing Authority of Winston-Salem CEO Larry Woods was not present at the meeting due to a family medical emergency but in a letter addressing relocation of displaced residents, he wrote, “I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my agency’s commitment to providing relocation services to any resident who is displaced as a result of our redevelopment efforts. With respect to any redevelopment projects undertaken as a part of the Choice Neighborhood grant, we will be legally required to provide case management services to displaced residents. United Way is the lead agency in this respect; and United Way will be coordinating with other providers to ensure sufficient case management services are delivered.”

Ritchie Brooks, the city’s community and business development director, said the housing authority needs to submit the grant request this month to meet its deadline. That means the latest city council can sign off on the proposed partnership would be June 20. The finance committee agreed on Monday to forward the request to the full council without a recommendation.

Council members also learned during the Monday finance committee meeting that staff will be bringing a request from the housing authority in August for $1.7 million in financial assistance to acquire the New Hope Manor Apartments, demolish some units and rehab the complex. The apartments are at the northern end of the Choice Neighborhoods grant area and across the street from Fairview Park.

Accessible only through a lane off Cleveland Avenue that runs past the blighted New Hope Manor Apartments, Fairview Park has a barren feel exacerbated by the heavy truck traffic on nearby Highway 52. A driveway along the eastern edge of the park is strewn with broken glass and used condoms.

The city has budgeted $200,000 from a 2014 bond to pay for improvements to the park, including fencing enhancements, a new pedestrian area and a new parking area.