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Brooksville Housing Authority a step closer to demolishing aging public housing complexes

BROOKSVILLE — The City Council has given unanimous approval to its housing board to seek permission to demolish two aging public housing complexes and relocate residents to other housing.

Under the proposal made by Brooksville Housing Authority director Tommy Brooks, the agency will apply for a demolition permit from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for Hillside Estates and Summit Villas, both of which have been deemed by the housing board as too expensive to repair. The authority will explore adopting a HUD voucher program that would provide replacement housing to the low-income residents who now live at the complexes.

Brooks told the council Monday night that the voucher proposal would be the best way to ensure that current residents will have quality housing as well as the freedom to live where they choose.

"The residents are our first priority," Brooks said. "We will be ready to work with them in any way we can."

However, Brooks' proposal wasn't welcomed by all. Several residents of the housing complexes said they were happy where they lived, even if the conditions weren't ideal.

"I have no problems where I am," said Susan Cook, president of the newly formed Summit Villas Tenant Association. "I have a little mold in one room, but it's not enough to make me want to leave. A lot of people feel the same way."

Built in the early 1970s, the complexes, which combined have 126 apartments, have suffered from years of neglect and structural problems. Hillside Estates, off Union Street near the now-shuttered Rogers' Christmas House Village, has three buildings that are uninhabitable and several more that have significant cracking and other damage.

An architectural assessment last year concluded that repairing and upgrading the two apartment complexes would take a little more than $17 million.

"It would take five years alone to replace all the roofs, based on our funding," Brooks said. "At this stage of the game, it's not worth it."

The cost to raze both complexes would be about $1.13 million, according to the application. Relocating the tenants would cost an additional $182,350.

Brooks said that even if HUD approves the application, it could take a couple of years before the go-ahead would be given to begin relocating residents. According to HUD Section 8 rules, tenants would receive a 90-day notice from the earliest date they could be required to move. Once a new residence is found, tenants would be given a 30-day notice with an exact moving date.

In addition, housing authority officials would provide counseling and work with tenants to help them live elsewhere and provide vouchers, allowances and reimbursements for residents' moving expenses.

Although council members supported Brooks, some had concerns as to whether his agency had clearly communicated the proposal to tenants.

"I think we need to sell the idea to the people who live there," Mayor Frankie Burnett said. "That's what it will take to get the wheels turning."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Brooksville Housing Authority a step closer to demolishing aging public housing complexes 12/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:27pm]
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