Durham wants a revived Fayette Place, but it’s not part of Tuesday’s housing bond – The News & Observer

DURHAM

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Despite a fervent request from Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods, Mayor Steve Schewel stood by the city’s decision not to include the redevelopment of Fayette Place in the funding from the $95 million Durham affordable housing bond.

However, the mayor agreed during a meeting with CAN members Wednesday night to join community members in a planning process for the long-vacant, former public housing community site that now sits behind a chain-link fence in the historically black Hayti district.

Wednesday’s meeting at First Chronicles Community Church came just days ahead of Tuesday’s election, when the bond referendum will appear on the Durham ballot.TOP ARTICLES  00:15 / 00:30NASA astronaut Christina Koch thanks Raleigh cityleaders from outer space

It followed an Oct. 19 meeting where the mayor previously told Durham CAN members he could not commit to including Fayette Place in the bond referendum.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Schewel, mayoral candidate Sylvester William, Durham Housing Authority CEO Anthony Scott and Durham City Council members Mark-Anthony Middleton and Charlie Reece all vowed to support creating a planning process for Fayette Place in the next four to six months.

“I completely understand the pain and the anger surrounding the history of Hayti and the lack of redevelopment in Fayette Place,” Schewel said.

The mayor said the city’s decision not to fund Fayette Place directly in the bond referendum is tied to the city’s Five-Year Affordable Housing Investment Program, which emphasizes aged public housing units in central Durham. Fayette Place is included in the plan, but other housing units like J.J Henderson Housing Center and Oldham Towers that are closer to transportation routes get higher priority.

Schewel said funding from private investments is also harder to obtain for Fayette Place, where the city and DHA hope to eventually have 130 new housing units and a grocery store.

“There’s no piece of public policy that was ever meant to address everything at one time,” Councilman Middleton said. “There was no conscious effort to leave Fayette Place out.”

City Council candidate Joshua Gunn was unable to attend the meeting but said in an interview that he would have publicly committed support for Fayette Place and that funding for it should have been explicitly included in the bond referendum.

“We would definitely have loved to hear that Fayette Place became the priority and connected to the bond,” said the Rev. Herbert R. Davis, co-chair of the Durham CAN strategy team. “But hearing from the mayor that he did not think that was feasible … we came up with the decision to make the ask that we would be getting together within six months to make it a priority.”

Davis said it was an attempt “to negotiate something that could still get us in the right direction.”

In 2017, the City Council authorized the DHA to spend $4.2 million to buy back the Fayette Place property from Campus Apartments, a private company that bought it in 2007 to build student and affordable housing. That housing was never built.

COSTS AND CONCERNS

The bond is part of the city’s larger $160 million five-year plan to address affordable housing., reduce homelessness and stabilize neighborhoods.

If passed, the $95 million bond would cost the owner of a $230,000 house about $37 a year, or the equivalent of 1.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value, over the next 20 years, according to the city.

The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Durham Inc., the Durham People’s Alliance, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Friends of Durham and the Sierra Club have all endorsed the bond. The Friends of Durham, citing spending on the now failed Durham-Orange light rail project, backed the bond with conditions.

“In light of the fact that our community has nothing to show for the $150 million in tax dollars spent on the light rail project, the Friends of Durham has significant concerns regarding how the funds in the proposed Affordable Housing Bond will be allocated, how spending will be tracked, and how the community will be able to hold management and elected officials accountable,” Chairwoman Shelia Huggins said.

Among the group’s conditions are the creation of a diverse oversight board with housing, real estate and construction experts; the development of a regular reporting plan, including a annual scorecard and deadlines; and the development of a plan to help residents return to their previous housing locations.

Schewel said at a meeting Saturday that the bond plan will include a City Council-appointed implementation committee that will have construction and finance experts, as well as DHA residents.

Every day, 20 people move to Durham, Schewel said, and those moving here have an average income $10,000 higher than those who live here now. This disparity is driving the price of housing up, forcing out many people of color who have been in and near the center city their whole lives, he said.

“We can’t allow Durham to become a Disney version of itself,” Schewel said. “We have to make sure that Durham is a place that remains diverse. If we pass the housing bond, that won’t solve the whole problem. … But it will take a big bite out of the affordability apple.”