DANVILLE – Danville Housing Authority officials have identified three buildings on the east side of the Fair Oaks housing complex that could be the first for possible demolition of public housing units.
These plans and the process to get approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the housing demolition were to be presented Thursday to the DHA board for discussion.
During the board’s December meeting, vice chairman Lon Henderson asked management to report on how the authority can use Section 8 vouchers to move residents as they vacate buildings and about the process to demolish buildings.
According to minutes from the December board meeting, Henderson said the approximately 85 percent occupancy also should open up units to move residents around at Fair Oaks and away from the buildings proposed for demolition.
“We’ve self-assessed and have identified three buildings we believe would be the best ones to remove,” said Greg Hilleary, DHA executive director.
The buildings would remove 28 units (10 each in two buildings and eight in another) from the 326-unit Fair Oaks development. The buildings all are on the east side of the complex on Belton Avenue and near Moore Street. The Moore Street area is where there have been more criminal issues and trespassers to the public housing property.
The buildings tend to experience a high rate of turnover, see frequent and extensive repairs because of poor construction and also don’t have washer and dryer hook-ups, making them less desirable to rent, according to DHA officials.
Hilleary said he’d like to see something else constructed before they’d knock down buildings.
There is a possibility of using Section 8 vouchers for relocation.
The city and DHA officials plan to resume regular meetings next week — they have not met since November — to talk about affordable, mixed-income housing to replace dense public housing.
“This is such as lengthy process and we have to prove to HUD that these buildings are not needed,” Hilleary said of the proposed demolitions.
The rational for inventory reduction, according to DHA officials, is to reduce population density within Fair Oaks, better match availability to demand and to eliminate outdated and worn buildings.
There are 41 resident buildings in Fair Oaks closely packed together with inadequate parking and transportation services, officials say. Each building has two to 10 units. The two-unit buildings are four or five bedroom. The remaining structures have units with one to five bedrooms.
According to the DHA report, “The larger buildings are especially problematic from the standpoint of density. For instance, an eight-unit building that has all four bedroom units can house 64 individuals, mostly children. The individual units are not adequately designed for that number and having that many people in a relatively small area inevitably leads to conflict among residents already challenged economically.”
Applications for the reduction of unit inventory are processed through the Special Applications Center at HUD.
Hilleary said there’s a long list of regulations and documentation that must be met for the application process, including intergovernmental agreements, resident consultation and an environmental review.
The housing authority has had “future development/redevelopment” in the DHA’s long-term capital plan for years.
In 2010, local officials toured newer public housing complexes and mixed-income sites in Champaign and Springfield.
“We’ve had in the plan for five years, reducing the density is a good thing,” Hilleary said.
He said he will wait on the board’s direction if they should more seriously start talking to HUD now and keep moving forward.
DHA officials recommend an engineering/architectural firm be hired to complete and submit the application.
The DHA also recently did a $5 million energy project and those proposed units for demolition were included. However, Hilleary said it was discussed that the light fixtures, toilets, refrigerators and stove, etc., could be removed and reused.
Hilleary still would like to have other housing in place to generate revenue before any buildings are taken down.
The housing authority can use capital funding to tear buildings down. City Community Development Block Grant funding also is eligible.
In other DHA news, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer still hasn’t re-appointed or appointed board members.
Five of the DHA’s seven board members have expired terms. Those with expired terms are Gayle Lewis, Sandy Lawlyes, Don McLaughlin, Mike Puhr and Terry Koebrich. Those with current terms are Chairman Rick Strebing and Henderson.
Hilleary said the board members can still serve until they are replaced or reappointed. However, with another yearly audit coming up, the expired terms likely will be a noted issue for the second year, he added.
Also, the DHA has been awarded an Efficient Living Electric Grant Sub Award of $14,189 and an Efficient Living Gas Grant Sub Award of $3,580 from the Illinois Public Housing Authority Energy Program of the University of Illinois at the Urbana-Champaign campus and Illinois Energy Office at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Some heating and lighting at the DHA administration building will be addressed.