Action Report: Sanderson Village Apartments to be torn down

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - If you drive by the Sanderson Village complex off 34th Street, you will see a neat, well kept public housing development for elderly residents 62-years-old and above.

In April, the 71 residents received a letter, stating that they had to pack up and move out because a new housing complex would be built at the same location and the homes they are living in now would be torn down.

"A lot of them didn't want to leave, but they had to because we have a notice, a 90 days notice to vacate."

Consandra Franklin, other residents and homeowners living next to Sanderson Village met with Gulfport Councilwomen Ella Holmes-Hines last week to voice their concerns.

In 2006, the Housing Authority received $1.2 million to refurbish the apartments.

"It was a waste," Holmes-Hines said. "I consider it to be one of the greatest wastes. I also consider this relocating seniors when they are sick and not well, it's really a horrible thing that's happening here."

"I hold South Mississippi Housing Development accountable, Jackson and Washington accountable for what has happened to these residents," Holmes added, "and they have been made to feel extremely fearful when asking questions."

Attorney Gail Tart was contacted by some of the residents.

"It's no guarantee that the people will be allowed to return back to this place. It seems like Katrina all over again. So the people are elderly, some disabled and they need some assurances that I didn't hear they're been getting."

Wednesday night, the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority held a public hearing at Sanderson Village.

Judith Moran, Director for the South Mississippi Housing and Community Development Corporation said, "The plan is to redevelop it to demolish the existing units and develop 80 elderly units on this site. And the purpose for the public hearing tonight to get comments on the Housing Authority's request to HUD to designate the development as elderly only."

Moran said the residents were offered at least three comparable units at other properties and they were offered financial assistance with their moves.

I told Moran that I looked inside one of the homes or the apartment and they looked like they were in pretty good shape. "Is there a reason why you're tearing these down or what?" I asked.

Moran responded by saying, "The site needs to be redeveloped to make it more accessible to elderly. It's two story properties, for example, and there are no elevators."

I asked Moran if tearing down the existing apartments is government waste?

"Not in our opinion," she said. "We believe that we will produce housing that will be to the betterment of the elderly families. It's going to give them a safer cleaner environment."

The meeting was attended by only one resident, who moved out on Monday. Attorney Gail Tart said most residents don't read the small notices in the back of the local newspaper.

"So a public hearing would be for the public."

As you look around, we are out numbered because you have more staff than the residents or the public.

"These are employees. It's almost like you're have a meeting for yourselves."

Moran promised Tart that if the residents want to meet, she will try to pick a location and time for another hearing.

Moran doesn't know when the Sanderson Village Apartments will be torn down and when the new project will get underway.

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