Housing Authority Approves Controversial Changes - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Housing Authority Approves Controversial Changes

Ella Holmes-Hines was among several public officials who spoke out at Thursday's regional housing authority board meeting.

She joined others in asking the board to delay its plans to sell one public housing complex and redevelop two others in Gulfport and Pascagoula.

"Do you understand that housing vouchers on the street today are not worth 50 cents? Why? There's no housing stock. There's no stock," the Gulfport council member told the board.

The board faced a room filled with residents and pleas from public officials to at least delay the project.

William Martin represents District 4 on the Harrison County board of supervisors.

"We've lost enough citizens already. Every school district is down in its enrollment. I'm not saying that you have to not ever do this. But I am saying now is not the right time," he said.

The biggest fear is finding affordable housing alternatives, especially in a post-Katrina market of sky high rent and housing costs. The issue is financial and emotional.

"They're asking us, where are we going? Please help us. So, I've come in this morning asking all of you all to please, give us some more time," pleaded housing advocate, Christine Brice.

Housing authority leaders say there will be plenty of time given the slow process of moving through federal government channels. They also sought to allay fears about people finding places to live.

"Someone asked the question, where will you go? I have one answer. You'll go to some other public housing community. When the time comes. Which no one is going to say is next month or even the end of this year," said deputy director J.P. Lawrence.

The housing authority leadership did admit its own letter to residents was easily misunderstood.

"The legal angle don't go very far with the brothers on the corner. All they know is, am I going to have to move out of my place? And where am I going?" said board member Leander Taylor.

The director assured residents they'll be taken care of.

"They know me. And I also believe that today most of them know when I tell them that I'm not going to displace them, that they believe that," said Roy Necaise, the executive director.

Residents seemed at least a little relieved after the board meeting.

"I was confused. But I'm a little bit more understanding about what's going on. And maybe I'll rest better tonight than I've been resting since I received that letter," said resident Rosemary Matthews.

It will be at least six months before HUD responds to the housing authority's plan.

Again, the biggest assurance to residents was: We will find you alternative, affordable housing once these properties are either sold or redeveloped.

By Steve Phillips

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