WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Public housing to replace storm-damaged homes

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The Wilson Housing Authority’s plan to replace houses flooded during Hurricane Matthew recently received a boost from federal funds.

The city of Wilson was among 10 communities across the state selected to receive $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds through the N.C. Neighborhood Revitalization Program. The city and county both applied for federal funds on behalf of the housing authority and the county already received a $1 million allocation for the project.

“Water went in to 40 units and displaced the residents during Hurricane Matthew. We also had a number of units inside the 100-year floodplain that didn’t get damaged, but we’d like to relocate all the homes from the floodplain,” said housing authority President and CEO Kelly Vick. “During Matthew, many units had 2 or 3 feet of water. We chose not to repair them because we knew it was a repetitive flood location, which was good because after the rain on April 25, the same thing happened.

“We couldn’t even get to the properties because Lodge Street was flooded.”

Following the hurricane, 40 families were displaced. Staff was able to shuffle some to other public housing units while others were put into the Section 8 program with private landlords and some left public housing altogether.

The need for affordable housing is great with the Wilson Housing Authority serving about 1,400 families, so Vick developed a plan to rebuild away from the flood zone. The decision was made to put together a project on land between Walnut and Banks streets near Lodge Street that the housing authority already owned.

“We had homes there that had been removed, so the land was available,” Vick said. “We asked an architect to put together a plan for 32 units and we’ve gotten some estimates that this is a $3 million project. But if we get better pricing, we could build more because we have more land in this area.”

In addition to the $1.75 million in federal funds, the housing authority has $191,039 in replacement housing capital funds saved since 2014, $743,716 in insurance proceeds from the bank and is expected to receive an additional $180,000 from Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We applied for the max allowable through the county and the city and were awarded both,” Vick said. “We’re hoping there might be more funds available because while we’re hopeful the $2.8 million will be enough, but the building market economy is pretty strong right now, so we’re not sure what pricing we’ll get.”

The project likely will be put to bid in late summer or early fall. Construction could get underway late this year or early 2019 with the goal of completion by the end of 2020. Vick said there is a waiting list for public housing, so the need is ever-present.

“Most of the affordable housing has been going on in the outskirts of the community, but with downtown developing like it has, I think this will be very popular housing,” Vick said.

Housing authority spokesman Tim Rogers noted the project also fulfills the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s philosophy of supporting affordable housing near commercial development.

The houses along Starmount Circle and Hyatt Drive will be demolished and turned into stormwater mitigation areas along Hominy Creek.

“Removing many of these units is part of a bigger city-wide plan with the greenway slated to come through there,” said Rogers. “This project is not just good for us, but for all of Wilson. It fits well with the total vision of what we want to see done as a community.”

Once complete, the units would be the first new housing authority development — with the exception of a development for seniors in 2013 — since the 1980s. The units that are slated to be demolished were built in the 1950s and 1960s.

“This will help our budget as well in terms of operating expenses,” Vick said. “We’ll have much less maintenance costs, plus because it is out of the floodplain, we’ll save on flood insurance.”

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