DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The historic Harriet Tubman YWCA building in Durham has been closed for years, but soon renovation will begin as it will be turned into affordable housing. 

The nonprofit group, Reinvestment Partners, purchased the property and will be turning the historic building into 15 affordable studio apartments.  

“Each studio apartment will have a bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom,” said Peter Skillern, executive director for Reinvestment Partners. “All of the units will be the same design and rent will range from $350 to $650.” 

Skillern said the apartments will be geared toward individuals who are formerly homeless, to those who make $35,000 a year. 

“It will help to address the housing needs of those with special needs,” Skillern said. 

Skillern said it was important to preserve the historic YWCA building. 

“This building is important to Durham‘s history in the African American community,” Skillern said. 

Built in 1954 by the African American community, the YWCA building has always been a part of the historic Fayetteville Street Corridor in Durham. 

The building housed single black females who were in nursing school, but Skillern said there were also important discussions in the YWCA that took place about the Civil Rights movement. 

“In this room, this is where history was made,” Skillern said in the community room of the YWCA. “This is where the royal ice cream parlor sit-in was organized, which preceded the sit-in movement at the Greensboro Woolworth’s.” 

Skillern said turning the historic YWCA into low-income housing is one way to preserve the building and to also help address the need for more affordable housing.



“I think the more that we invest in our affordable housing, the healthier and more prosperous community we’ll have,” Skillern said. 

Skillern said the affordable housing project has been in the works for four years and the plan is to have the project completed by the end of 2023. 

He said this is a $5 million project that’s being made possible through the help of congressional funding from U.S. Representative David Price through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city of Durham, and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.