DANVILLE – It was and will continue to be a transformative time for Housing Authority of the City of Danville and Vermilion County Housing Authority, which have merged into one organization.
Six buildings came down at the Fair Oaks public housing complex last year with the hopes of making the area safer and more manageable.
Demolition of Ramey Court in Georgetown is expected this year because it would take more money to bring the property up to code than to tear down. The demolition application will be resubmitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development after Jan. 1. It will involve the relocation of families in 26 units in 13 buildings.
Then there is the merger of the two housing authorities into one entity that board members approved in December.
The Housing Authority of Danville board approved: the transfer of the Vermilion County Housing Authority operations to the HACD effective Jan. 1; transfer of the operations, management and administration of the county’s Low Income Public Housing Program to the city’s housing authority for it to accept jurisdiction; and closing of bank accounts at First Farmers and transfer funds to the city’s housing authority at Central Illinois Bank.
Housing Authority of Danville Executive Director Jaclyn Vinson said they will work on the merger, including the name for the new joint agency and rebranding for it. They’ll be working under updated bylaws, and county housing authority employees who are overseeing properties will continue to work at those sites, Vinson said.
With the consolidation and eliminating duplication of operations and services, such as not having two audits and other aspects, they can be more efficient, she said.
The county housing authority board also will dissolve as an entity. Instead, there will be a seven-member board to oversee the joined housing authorities. It is proposed to have five city-appointed seats and two county-appointed seats based on the number of public housing units in the city and county, Vinson said. She said they wanted “a fair mix and representation” on the board, about the 70/30 percent housing split.
There are 683 public housing units between the two — 471 in Danville and 212 in Vermilion County. Prior to the demolition of six buildings and 57 units, Fair Oaks had 326 units. It now has 269 units.
Resident Ramona Colon, who has lived in Fair Oaks about three years, said in December about the demolitions, “nothing has changed. It’s the same.” Colon said it’s the people who make it a good place to live.
She said there are a lot of people who depend on the low-income housing and need a home. There are others, however, who cause trouble.
She’s excited about receiving a Section 8 housing voucher to move out of the complex.
Vinson said police department calls for service at Fair Oaks have decreased after the demolitions with fewer residents there. She couldn’t comment on the severity of criminal activities decreasing.
There still are groups of kids who gather, and neighbors fighting with neighbors still happens, she said.
Site restoration will likely occur in the spring at the demolition sites. The sites will be open green spaces for activities, such as sports for the youth. The demolitions cost the housing authority about $140,000.
Vinson said they aren’t done with demolitions at Fair Oaks. They’d ideally like to have 175 units, down from the existing 269.
“We believe that’s manageable,” she said of a public housing complex that size.
Phase 2 demolition discussions would have around 10 more buildings demolished. Which buildings would next be demolished, of differing unit numbers, have yet to be decided. Vinson said they will look at the conditions of the remaining buildings and chose from among the brick and mortar and stick-frame buildings built in phases starting in the 1940s. Officials have to show the physical obsolescence of the buildings to receive permission for the demolitions.
She expects a Phase 2 demolition application to be submitted this year.
“It’s just a long process,” Vinson said.
Vinson said they will be first waiting on the 90-day review period by HUD for the Ramey Court demolition application. It would then take 120 days for relocation for the residents to remain in public housing or take a tenant protection voucher to move.
Of the 57 displaced Fair Oaks families this year, one was evicted, one individual passed away, eight remained in public housing in Danville, one received other supportive housing, two had vouchers expire, one had a voucher from another waiting list, 23 families leased up with a voucher outside Vermilion County and 20 families leased up with a voucher in Vermilion County. There were about 130 displaced individuals.
Vinson said the housing authority still is interested in building mixed-income housing in Danville. In May 2019, the Illinois Housing Development Authority didn’t approve a low-income housing tax credit application for a $15 million proposed mixed-income housing project downtown. The application was not fully supported by Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. and some downtown area residents partly due to the density of some of the proposed apartment buildings.
The application also was altered due to concerns about parking for the Fischer Theatre and downtown. The parking lot at Walnut and Harrison streets was removed as a proposed building site. The final proposal included 64 units instead of an originally proposed 70.
Vinson said there still is a need for this type of housing in Danville, but it won’t be a focus for them this year. The merger and other projects took precedence the rest of 2019.
She said for the upcoming year they’ll continue: working to improve their housing, reaching out to qualified families who need housing assistance including in Hoopeston, Rossville-Alvin and other areas in the county and also work with Danville School District 118 regarding families at risk of being homeless.
Other Housing Authority of the City of Danville renovations in Danville last year included lobby renovation at the organization’s administration building on Clyman Lane, rehabilitation of the housing authority's maintenance yard and also lobby renovation at Mer Che Manor. In the county, reroofing work occurred at Richie Manor in Georgetown.
Office hours also will change for the Danville administration building at 1607 Clyman Lane. Hours now are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. They had been 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.