Razing roofs

Commercial-News File PhotoThis is one of three public housing buildings at Fair Oaks identified in an application the Danville Housing Authority will submit to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish. The loss of 27 units would start lessening the density of housing at the site which now has 326 units.

Jennifer Bailey

DANVILLE – Housing authority officials have been notifying Fair Oaks residents about the possibility public housing units could be demolished. The latest proposal calls for six buildings, containing 57 units, at Fair Oaks on East Fairchild Street to be torn down.

Board members of the Housing Authority of the City of Danville voted Monday to submit the demolition request to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Displaced residents will be moved to other open public housing units or given Section 8 vouchers to stay in the city. Residents also could move away from the city since the vouchers are portable.

There still are plans to create mixed-income housing sites in the downtown area.

Housing authority officials continue to work with the city on new housing development sites, said Pat O’Shaughnessy, chairman of the housing authority board.

Jaclyn Vinson, HACD executive director, hopes to submit the application by June 1. There then is a 90-day review period by HUD, prior to the agency making a decision.

City and HACD officials have said they want to reduce the density at the largest public housing complex in the city to improve quality of life and decrease crime and other issues.

“That’s not how our citizens of Danville should be forced to live, in those conditions,” O’Shaughnessy said of the compacted barrack-style apartments that were popular in the 1940s and 1950s. He said they want to eliminate that density of living.

“We have bigger plans for development to provide a different style of mixed-income living,” O’Shaughnessy added.

Housing authority officials in 2015 submitted a special application center proposal to HUD to demolish three buildings with 27 units of Fair Oaks’ 326 units.

The proposed buildings then were on the east side of the complex near Moore Street. There were badly deteriorated floors and interiors of many units in the three identified buildings to demolish. The buildings, which aren’t the oldest in the complex, were built in 1951-1952, according to former housing authority executive director Greg Hilleary.

Housing authority officials in 2015 were unable to justify the physical obsolescence of the buildings even though the housing authority indicated it would take more than $2 million to address building deficiencies. HUD has a calculation regarding funding and the total development cost.

The buildings being proposed for demolition now are more in the middle of the complex, with only one on the far east side and one along Fairchild Street.

Demolishing those buildings will open up more space among the close buildings. There are 41 residential buildings at Fair Oaks.

O’Shaughnessy said the application process takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

He also said the application submitted a few years ago was submitted by a troubled housing authority agency. Now HACD is a high-performing agency, he said.

“It’s a dollar and cents thing, too,” he said, acknowledging HUD has to determine if it’s more economical to remove the buildings than to maintain them.

O’Shaughnessy said the buildings have continued to deteriorate.

“Everybody has to have a place to go,” O’Shaughnessy also added.

HACD officials have talked to all potentially impacted residents.

A couple families have said they don’t want to move because they liked their neighbors.

“We are 94 percent filled on all units combined,” O’Shaughnessy added about the mostly filled units. “Fair Oaks has the most openings.”

He added about the Section 8 vouchers, “you can go anywhere you want.”

The big issues for new mixed-income housing development in the city are transportation and other amenities such as a grocery store.

“We’re not looking at a high rise,” O’Shaughnessy said.

The housing would be single-family or duplex at the most, he said about some scattered sites downtown.

In other business Monday, the HACD board:

• Approved a new three-year contract with Vinson. The contract runs through May 9, 2021. Vinson’s annual $80,000 salary is increasing 5 percent or to $84,000 the first year. There also are the potential for 5 percent increases each of the additional years based on performance evaluations. Vinson became executive director in 2016.

Board members give Vinson a “huge thank-you for the work” she’s done,” O’Shaughnessy said. “She’s really developed a wonderful staff.”

Vinson and the staff have worked hard to take the agency from troubled to a high performer, he reiterated.

“The scores are absolutely wonderful,” he said.

He said there’s a lot of growth on the horizon with the proposed demolition project, and new building developments.