DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As the city of Durham fights an affordable housing crisis, voters on Tuesday will head to the polls to vote on a $95 million bond that is expected to provide affordable housing to thousands of families in the Bull City.
If the bond passes, it would allow the city to build 1,600 new affordable housing units and to preserve 800 affordable rental units.
“We will be replacing some of the Durham Housing Authority’s old, crumbling housing downtown with new high-quality housing for those folks to live in, which we need to do,” said Mayor Steve Schewel.
The bond is also expected to take 1,700 homeless people off the street and provide homeownership to 400 families.
“Do we want to keep our city more affordable and more diverse? Or do we want it to become kind of a Disney version of itself, a much less affordable and much less diverse city?” said Schewel. “That’s not what I want to see, and I don’t think that’s what people in Durham want to see. I think they want to keep the Durham that we know and love which is a city that embraces difference, a city that we want to be affordable for all people, and we have to fight for that.”
However, not everyone in the community is on board with this plan.
Tiffany White is a single mom with three teenage children. She said she is unable to find a comfortable, affordable apartment in Durham.
“I was lucky to get into a property, but it’s not big enough for me and my children,” White said. “We’re stuffed in, but we can’t move because there’s nowhere to go.”
White said she agrees that something needs to be done to fix the affordable housing problem in Durham.
However, she fears this will force hundreds of families out of the current affordable-housing units while repairs are being done, should the bond pass. She also has concerns the residents won’t be able to return.
“You’re talking about pushing seniors out of their homes,” White said. “They’re not thinking about us. I really think they’re trying to push us out of here.”
However, Schewel said each affordable housing location that will be renovated under the bond has its own placement plan for residents.
Schewel said at some locations, like J.J. Henderson, the residents will be housed in different units on the property.
“In the interim, there will be a temporary relocation, and we need to make sure that that’s done very well,” Schewel said. “Those folks have an absolute right of return by law and its what’s morally right for them to be able to come back to those same properties.”
If the bond passes, it will cost homeowners, on average, an additional $37 per year.
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