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A Section 8 crisis in Durham: Too few landlords, too many tenants and a misdirection by the housing authority

This story was updated at 12:25 to add a comment from the Durham Housing Authority.

This story was updated at 2:45 to add a comment from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is a story of Durham's affordability crisis: Marian Spicer, a teacher's aide in Durham Public Schools, earns $20,000–$24,000 a year, not even half of the county's annual median income. That salary level qualifies her for subsidized housing, which would be useful, except that her former apartment complex, Foxfire, on the north side, stopped taking Section 8 vouchers, Spicer told the Durham Housing Authority board last night.

And if she doesn't find a new place that accepts Section 8 recipients by Christmas, she will lose her voucher, go to the back of a very, very long waiting list and become homeless.

"It's almost impossible to find a one-bedroom in Durham," DHA CEO Dallas Parks said. "We're not the solution. It has to be a community solution."

Except that DHA could have the solution, at least a temporary one. DHA does not allow people who hold vouchers for one-bedroom units to use them for two-bedroom units, even if the subsidy covers enough of the cost. "We're empathetic," Parks added. "But we just administer the vouchers. We don't make the rules. We can't be in conflict with HUD."

Lorisa Seibel of Community Reinvestment Partners in Durham told the board she had heard neighboring counties allow voucher holders to upscale, so to speak. "We're asking you to change a policy that doesn't work in this county."

For Spicer, a more flexible voucher system could make the difference between having a home or couch surfing—or worse. 

Parks said last night that he was unaware of any such upscaling policy, but that he would check.

But when I called the Raleigh Housing Authority this morning I learned that lo and behold, federal housing rules do allow voucher holders to "go up" by one bedroom, as long as the subsidy is sufficient. (The Orange County Housing Authority has not yet returned my call, but the agency is swamped because it is briefly opening its Section 8 waiting list.)

Updated: Rhega Taylor, who is in charge of the Housing Choices voucher program at DHA, said today that "the response provided by RHA is inconsistent with the regulations governing the program. "

I've contacted the Department of Housing and Urban Development for clarification.

Updated: Joseph Phillips of the HUD Office of Public Affairs told me in an email that "If there are no one bedrooms in the area the voucher holder can select a two bedroom unit as long as the voucher payment amount and utility allowance is that of a one bedroom."

So there you have it.

However, Parks is correct in that there are too few landlords who will accept Section 8 vouchers, or even HUD-VASH vouchers, which help homeless veterans. Within the past five years, the number of willing landlords has decreased by nearly 25 percent from 900 to 700, Councilman Steve Schewel said. (I reported on the local veterans' housing crisis for The N&O last month.)

Some landlords, knowing that they can command higher prices, are hiking the cost of one-bedrooms beyond what a voucher will cover. Other property owners don't want to navigate the inspection process and maintain their apartments to HUD's minimum code requirements. (And the regulations are not that onerous: one separate bathroom with hot and cold running water, functional locks on windows and doors, proper electrical wiring.) Other Section 8 units are limited to people 62 and older.

 "The situation has gotten a lot worse because of the pressures in the housing market," said Schewel, who is the Council liaison to the DHA board. "The market has responded by creating one- and two-bedroom apartments that are beyond what the vouchers will cover."

That's not just anecdote. According to rentjungle.com, over the past six months the average rent has increased in Durham by $137, or 14.2 percent. As of August, a one-bedroom rented for about $939 a month, compared with $794 in February. Five years ago, a one-bedroom rental went for about $691.

"My mom needs a one-bedroom," Spicer's daughter, Shawnda, told the DHA board. "If you find one, it's a slum. I need my mom to have a safe place."

 

Comments

Rann

My analysis: Rents in Durham increased around $3.07 per month over the last ten years. However, over the last year, they've increased $11.63 per month. This is out of control.

Jeff Bakalchuck

"the response provided by RHA is inconsistent with the regulations governing the program. " Ah, good old fashioned bureaucratic double talk. Either the response is right or wrong.

However we learn from Lisa's legwork that the the response was not "inconsistent" at all.

It sounds like the people at Durham Housing Authority do not know what the HUD regulations are. How many Durham residents have become homeless due to the DHA staff not knowing their jobs?

DHA CEO Dallas Parks said. "We're not the solution...."
Bingo, Dallas Parks you aren't the solution you're actually part of the problem.

Natalie

I'm sure there are lovely people who work for DHA. What I've heard from residents of DHA properties who interact with staff multiple times a month those would probably be the exception not expectation.

Crystal

Thank you for this excellent reporting and follow-up.

Ram

What levers does the city have to induce more people to accept Section 8 vouchers if and when they decide to rent a property?

Lisa Sorg

Ram, There really is no legal incentive or inducement that I'm aware of. Section 8 vouchers guarantee the landlords that the rent will be paid, but apparently that's not enough to convince them to accept the vouchers. I learned yesterday that the Orange County Housing Authority also allows one-bedroom voucher holders to upscale.

Khalid Hawthorne

Correction Lisa...Section 8 guarantees that the subsidized portion is paid. The tenant is responsible for a portion based on a certain percentage of their income.

The exceptional demand for rental housing is probably driving landlords to market rate rents. This wave is not permanent is largely related to the demographic bubble called the Millennials. There was an expansion of colleges and dorms...now expansion of apartments...eventually they will be purchasing homes (when their income/ debts stabilize). Hopefully in this scenario...rent specials will become more of the norm.

In the mean time, we need to make a measured dent in this situation without overreaching. And any solution will most likely be locally-led versus having significant funds from the Federal or State level.

Rob G

@Ram-
There is not currently an inducement, but it would be easy to imagine the city being able to create one. Inclusionary zoning is illegal in NC, but that doesn't mean the city can't offer inducements.

One such program I've heard tossed around through the years was to use the penny for housing fund to offer a 50% grant for repairs/maintenance of housing units that were in the section 8 program (taking the money would also put them on a list for annual rental inspections, so that the city could ensure the money was well spent in a business sector where there are many bad actors).

The city already offers 50% grants for other kinds of businesses, including recent grants for facade improvements on 9th street and the longstanding-but-now-apparently-over retail grants for downtown businesses. Of course, subsidizing Guy Solie and the like may not sit well with Durham residents.

Frank Hyman

Rob G's last paragraph above is spot on. Renters = Good Guys and Landlords = Bad Guys in local political discussions. Any proposal to spend money to support for-profit rental housing gets shot down because it would go to landlords. And using the regulatory approach by raising standards on for-profit rentals, while certainly a good thing, means increased costs for the owner, who then raises the rent, etc. etc. Any desire progressives have to improve the for-profit rental situation (with or without section 8) as a way to help low income renters will require getting over our negative emotional reaction to putting money into landlords' property. I'm curious to see if that can happen here.

Disclosure: I rent out my old house in Burch Ave and have done so since moving in with my wife over a dozen years ago (I call it my Rental401(k). If we'd gone section 8 we wouldn't have had the money to put solar panels and other climate-disruption-fighting practices in place, nor money to donate to the local Land Trust. Can't have everything.

The Mgmt.

More specifically, Frank, it is this:

Non-profit Landlords = Good Guys and
For-profit Landlords = Bad Guys (in local political discussions.)

That's the PA's expressed position. By proxy, I guess it's now the city's position too.

Bull City Rising

@Frank, Rob, The Mgmt.: You know, this is a conversation I've been having with several friends lately.

I know there's a need for the city, DHA, and non-profits to design, build and deliver affordable housing, be it workforce housing, public housing, or housing for veterans, the homeless, etc.

But there will never be enough money to provide affordable housing, at the 60-80% AMI level, for everyone who needs it.

At a friend's house for brunch this week, I learned that Seattle has decided to focus its efforts on the below-60% AMI market, and to provide incentives, regulatory changes, etc. to incentivize the market to deliver workforce housing in the 60-100%+ AMI category.

It would be interesting to think through the models of how we could do something like this in Durham. Most particularly, how can we create a model where private parties -- and not just "big" local or regional/national scale developers and REITs, but even individuals here who might be looking for a local-scale investment -- are able to build and earn a reasonable return on market-rate affordable housing?

We'll have more on this topic in the coming weeks and months, but I'm talking with several folks about putting together a community conversation and charrette on the subject -- what can be done outside the governmental/non-profit space to deliver high-quality, sustainable affordable housing?

Rann

"But there will never be enough money to provide affordable housing, at the 60-80% AMI level, for everyone who needs it."

Unless you implement a progressive property tax system so that those who can afford extremely fancy homes (like, say, the recent penthouses that are going for something on the order of $1.5 million...) are forced to pay their actual dues. There are also other, less disruptive solutions. Add in potential matching grants from the feds, and it begins to seem like the idea that it can't be done is nothing less than defeatist.

As for having a charrette: good luck with that. In this era of white people wanting everyone around them to be 'polite', the sorts of confrontational community meetings that were so useful to this city in the 70's are next to impossible.

Or maybe I'm now being defeatist myself....

Natalie

Shut up Rann.

See, it can happen.

Natalie

Oh crap. I just realized I assumed you identified as white. I'm really sorry Rann. Go ahead, what were you saying?

Bull City Rising

@Rann: Not to nitpick, by the way (since I'm not sure how much you meant this as an opening to a policy discussion vs. just letting off steam -- shouldn't you be celebrating, anyway?) but this makes for a fun thought experiment! Really, let's do this.

A) If one wants to advocate for progressive taxes to pay for services like housing, why make a progressive property tax system in lieu of a progressive income tax system? Yes, setting aside for a moment that municipalities can't levy income taxes in Durham, if you're talking about any kind of progressive funding mechanism, income > property. Particularly since there aren't many of the kinds of properties you're talking about, to wit:

B) Is it possible to find a single $1.5 million condo that has sold in Durham? I know there are some proposed projects in the works, including a downtown skyscraper. But I'm not aware of any non-detached housing having ever sold for that price in Durham. If one is proposing a "penthouse tax" that will pay for affordable housing by levying a high tax rate on non-existent sales, one is not going to raise a lot of money.

C) Let's spitball what you could get out a broader tax. The only person I know of who tracked luxury home sales, Jay Zenner, hasn't updated his blog in a while. His last report, from 2010, noted that an average 30 homes sold over $700,000 per year in Durham. However, in 2010, only one home sold for over $1 million. At the time, Durham had 19% of the home market in the Triangle but 8% of the > $700k market, reflecting relative affordability next to Wake/Orange. (https://durhamluxre.com/2010/12/16/year-end-report-on-durhams-luxury-home-sales/). Of course -- 2010 is when we were still in the doldrums of the recession and housing bust, even if our area was less-hit than others. (Note that his multiyear data precedes that to the housing boom.)

So, let's look at Zillow instead. Looking at your price point of $1.5 million and up, I see nothing in downtown, central Durham or north Durham that sold there in their "recently sold" filter. (There are some land sales that included house, and one very unlucky buyer of a tract home for $16.7 million -- that, of course, being a typo.) Hope Valley CC does have five home sales in that price range, and two homes for sale in that price range.

The point of this exercise is, trying to figure out how many houses there are in Durham that are actually in your estimated price range. Given the small number of listings, it's really hard to figure it out. The number you usually here is that people move every seven years, so if you took the annual sales and multiplied by 7, you'd guess the volume. I'm guessing the velocity of these sales is much slower, so just for the sake of argument, let's assume there are 200 homes in the City of Durham at that price point.

Just spitballing here: we have a shortage of workforce housing in this city, we all know that. What does it cost to build a 2 or 3 bedroom, 1 bath unit? That's part of what I'd like to find out; for now, let's estimate about $125,000 or so just to have a number to play with. (That's construction, land, entitlement, and so forth. That number could also be off by a factor of 25% either way, or 50% to 100% on the low side, perhaps.)

If we wanted in one year to add, say, 1,000 more affordable housing units in Durham -- Section 8 units as well as affordable market rate housing -- that's $125 million in construction cost, plus the human effort to administer that activity. That latter number probably adds in a significant burden to the cap-ex, but we won't consider it here.

To garner $125 million in a year from 200 owners of $1.5 million+ single family homes -- since we don't have any $1.5 million condos for sale in Durham -- we'd have to levy each homeowner a one-time tax of $625,000 each to raise that money. Or, if we assumed we could make debt payments on the capital expenditure -- $62,500 each per year. Since one of these homes is probably paying $21,000 per year in property tax right now, we'd be quadrupling their annual tax burden.

Naturally, this is likely to create some distortion in the local housing market.

And more to the point, that's the cost just to add an arbitrary number of 1,000 units. If 2.5 people live in each unit, that benefits less than 1% of the city's population. We probably need 10x that number.

Sure, taxes and sources like Federal grants can help. Of course they can. At the same time: we're most recently talking about one tax credit application per year, that DHA and Self-Help both need, to each generate 100 units of housing.

Yes, that absolutely needs to happen.

But if we can find a way to actually encourage builders -- for-profit as well as not-for-profits -- to construct affordable housing, and find ways to make sure they stay affordable and get into the Section 8 inventory, that's pretty powerful stuff.

Oh, and have the benefit of keeping the units on the tax-rolls, producing property tax revenue every year.

This is actually an interesting and fun conversation to have. (Hey, you. Stop looking at me with that nerd-scorn.) Let's do it IRL, as the kids would say, and see if there's ways we're not thinking of to solve this.

Khalid Hawthorne

We need a B-Corp developer and a pool of patient capital. The full $125M would not have to come from the public sector. 50% may work but I can't run the numbers right now. The idea is to have cash flow exceed principal and interest payments by 1.1 - 1.2 times...Basically a 10-20% profit. The profit would be necessary to reinvest in to future projects and provide a modest return on the patient capital.

So say we need $70M in patient capital. It is totally plausible that you would only need $7-10M from public sources and raise the remainder from Bank CRA, foundation PRI Loans and Low-Interest Corporate loans or convertible notes. The goal would be to have a cost of capital around 2% or less probably with a term of around 7-10 years. These dollars could be considered philanthropic with a low return.

This capital would be more flexible and available than the LIHTC as well as CDBG funds.

Adding 1000 workforce units would probably have an interesting effect on the broader market. Subpar Class C units would be less attractive and probably sold and renovated or they could just lower their rent and not maintain their property...

Interesting discussion BCR!

Al

Let's back up to this original description of a progressive property tax system, above:

"...Unless you implement a progressive property tax system so that those who can afford extremely fancy homes (like, say, the recent penthouses that are going for something on the order of $1.5 million...) are forced to pay their actual dues."

A REGRESSIVE system would demand each household pays the same flat amount (say $3000 in property tax) regardless of house value/size. But that's not how our system works. In Durham a house valued at 1,500,000 pays 10 times the property tax of a house valued at $150,000.

Rann, could you clarify your definition of what you think a PROGRESSIVE property tax system is?

Will Wilson

One possibility is exempting the first, say, $100,000 of property value from taxation. With protections against breaking real estate up into sub-$100,000 bits, of course.

Natalie

I've assumed that when people talk about affordable/workforce/deserving poor housing I've assumed they mean rental.

Imagine what $125k could do to purchase current rentals, fix them to code, and sell them back to the current renters in East Durham. Also, add in a pile of money to fix problems that emerge over the first 10 years of home ownership. Build a land trust. Reform the Durham Housing Authority (again).

Thing is, many people, when given the option to purchase in the areas they've lived forever do not want to. I tried for 5 years to convince neighbors who had rented for more than a decade in Cleveland Holloway, had steady jobs and ok credit to purchase a house in Cleveland Holloway. They patiently listened, but would always insist if they wanted to buy a house, they were going to do it in a nice part of town like S. Durham where it's clean and new.

Poor people are entitled to make choices about where they live too. Affordable housing needs to be spread throughout the city, not concentrated around and in downtown - both for the concentration effect, but also to delight the preferences of those who want to rent or own.

Al

Cheers that, Natalie.

And yes, it's remarkable that no one in Durham is lobbying for affordable housing in the suburbs.

Before we stack and pack sub-80% AMI citizens, maybe we should survey:

What would you prefer for YOUR family:
A) a 700sf urban apartment with no private greenspace? OR
B) a 1500sf home with a yard?

Carol Henderson

Al, I was thinking the same thing this morning. Downtown probably doesn't appeal to many people with young children. I lived at a rental condo in downtown many years ago. It was great until I realized I really need grass and a garden to be happy. Natalie,
Interesting about people in East Durham not necessarily wanting to stay even if they can be home owners. It makes sense. If you have seen too much crime and still have neighbors and surrounding property that isn't very nice of course you would prefer to move.

Bull City Rising

Great discussion, all. Just a couple of thoughts to add:

My general philosophy on affordable housing is an "all of the above" mentality. We need to have affordable central Durham purchase options, affordable central Durham rental options, and similar affordable options in the suburban areas.

Al's dislike of "stack and pack" aside, I do think that it's important that we think about the role density plays. If you want to keep things truly affordable, it's hard to discount the role that duplexes or even higher densities can play. You can more easily leverage land and infrastructure costs. No, that can't be the only solution but it should be one option.

I think it's good to provide ownership and rental options. Groups like Habitat do phenomenal work helping to keep ownership expenses low. With that said, there's also always the unexpected expense risk it can have on a homeowner. Those are appropriately individual choices, which is why we need both.

Natalie, you do raise an interesting point about folks' not wanting to stay in the neighborhood. That's a different side to the narrative of gentrification. I don't think it's a universal view but it would underscore the importance of listening to feedback from communities.

In re affordable housing and the suburbs -- I would argue that markets have been providing this in areas. The Wynterfield townhouses, south of NCCU on NC 55 near RTP, have units now selling in the $128-$150k range (resale.) There are similar (and lower) prices in the Woodcroft area, too, and in the Guess and Horton corridors. Lower land costs and probably weaker demand in these areas contribute. Of course, ability to access transit, bike lanes and other features has a crucial role to play in increasing family wealth, say by allowing a two-earner family to have one car if needed.

@Will: It would take some work to delve into tax policy, but I'll note that while an attractive idea, those models can have challenges. Florida's homestead exemption system and Save Our Homes cap on property tax increases created a two-tiered system that distorted the housing market severely. Different than what you're proposing, but just wanted to add the "many a slip twixt" caveat. (https://articles.orlandosentinel.com/keyword/save-our-homes)

John Martin

@Bullcityrising
There is actually a lot of affordable housing for sale (as opposed to rental property). You mentioned building a house for $125,000. Guess what? Private developers are doing better than that. Look, for example, as this property for sale in Landon Farms (out E. Geer St.):
https://www.fmrealty.com/real-estate/durham/1411-glenbrittle-drive/2023928?rowNum=21&searchID=d3bf7483-6f14-4c28-bf39-3a8b26c7e75f&sortBy=priceDesc&pageSize=20&page=2&displayPhoto=exterior
Is it a great house? Probably not. But it is 1) new and 2) priced at less than $116,000 for three bedrooms and two baths. If you're willing to buy a previously-owned house, you can do better than that. Try this:
https://www.fmrealty.com/real-estate/durham/516-eastway-avenue/1991951?rowNum=3&searchID=38f37fc8-adcd-4304-b7f3-5e0d73d9bee2&sortBy=priceDesc&pageSize=20&page=1&displayPhoto=exterior
It's $95,000 for 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and 1250 square feet. And it's been sitting on the market for 194 days. This house is in Eastway Village, and therein hangs a tale. Eastway Village was built by the City in 2006 as "affordable housing" and neighborhood revitalization. And I will be the first to agree that it looks very nice with brick veneer foundations, front porches, garages in back, and hardiplank siding. But according to someone who should know, the City spent an average of $300,000 per unit on this development. It ought to look nice. Part of the reason for the high cost is that the City tore down the existing bungalows rather than restore them. (This is, of course, the regnant planning model for all City projects, cf. Carpenter Building/Police Department: just tear it all down because thinking about how to incorporate existing structures is too hard and makes our heads hurt.)

Now, of course, the City is doing Southside, building "affordable" housing that costs around $200,000 or so. Millions of City housing dollars are tied up in this project for years to come. It is Eastway Village on a grander scale. Again, it looks nice. But I don't think this is the most efficient use of scarce housing dollars. Let me suggest a couple of lessons:

1) The City ought to stop playing real-estate developer and building houses for resale. It can't do it any more cheaply than the market can. Building houses for $300,000 that can't bring $95,000 a decade later doesn't make sense.

2) The City ought to focus on increasing the supply of decent, affordable rental property. Encouraging renovation of substandard properties is one way. And, as I've previously argued on BullCityRising, lowering the fees that the City charges for building new housing is another way.

Khalid Hawthorne

Re: people leaving the neighborhood once they can afford a home. They are just following everyone else who has climbed the economic ladder or had the opportunity to "escape or 'Move on up'." If we are to have a grown up discussion, outside of the long-time homeowners in several inner city there are few who really WANT to live there. The houses are old and leaky...the energy bills are ridiculous. Plus the American dream for them is still to have a suburban house with a big yard.

The trend now among young Millennials is to utilize less space. Walk down to neighborhood park for green space. Go to the neighborhood coffee shop for social interactions versus the mall. They still gas up the car for shopping but that is only an occasional occurrence and not a daily thing.

As far as urban apartment versus 100 acre apartment complexes or quarter-acre lot homes, Durham's reality is that we are running out of areas within the county borders to develop without intruding on environmentally sensitive areas. In other words, our county will probably trend more towards denser housing (and I'm not a huge fan of the cluster home proposal...just build townhouses with green space) and hopefully located closer to job centers and transit options. We also need to refurbish and redevelop existing communities both urban and suburban such as Colonial Apartments and Garrett Square/ Wellington Place near the South Square area but located near many major employers in the area.

As Durham grows and continuously reinvents itself (which is necessary for survival...you don't want to be like several Midwest towns that resisted change for years), it needs to accommodate housing across the board. We want to have opportunities who work here to be able to live here. See Chapel Hill for the effects of strict development guidelines. Even RTP is trying to fill-in because they do not have any more land for a 100 acre corporate campus and the wants and needs of the next generation workforce are different.

I like Durham because it is NOT a poor city. People from various socio-economic backgrounds rub shoulder every day. That is what we should try to maintain.

Khalid Hawthorne

@John Martin - These areas were totally off the radar for market developers at the time. Plus those costs include environmental cleanups and disposal of contaminated soils. The markets not touching that!

Eastway Village will appreciate along with the properties from N Hyde Park to Driver St. It is currently happening. I doubt that they will ever sell for $300k (your number) but that was not the point of the city's investment. Also the redevelopment of Alston Avenue which I think will be led by more market forces will be the biggest boost to property values in this area. It will be yet another gentrified community in Durham for better and worse but the city's investment was the catalyst...

Natalie

@Khalid, you're fooling yourself if you think Alston Ave is going to do a damn thing other than create another freeway through a neighborhood. It will in fact cut off East Durham from everything happening downtown and make Eastway Village (and East Durham) feel that much more disconnected.

Alston isn't getting 15-501 treatment. They are building a divided highway.

Rann

@Natalie: Have I told you lately that I love you?

@everyone else: Housing is not the only cost. Moving far from downtown but working near downtown increases transportation and other costs significantly for working families. Having affordable housing and retail supermarkets near downtown is one of the very few to break a cycle of poverty. Of course, good transport helps, but it's not enough.

As for progressive property taxes: In short, if you can afford a $1.5 million penthouse (and whether there are some right now doesn't really matter -- the trend is clear), you can damn well afford to pay a pretty enormous chunk of your income in taxes. I'm certainly an advocate of a top income tax bracket well over 90% (which has historical precedent), and a massive increase in capital gains. As for property: I think that houses that sell for under, say $75k (and yes, there are quite a few -- see, e.g. Old East Durham), should have zero property tax as long as they're owner-occupied. From there on up, I'd advocate increasing marginal taxation rates with pretty darn high maximums. Would that discourage very expensive housing from being built? Hell yes.

The city should spend money fixing the amazing old housing stock we have all over town, not building low-quality housing for way too much money. Both Eastway Village and Southside are far from affordable. With rents now rising in Durham at close to four times the rate they have been for the last decade, it's about damn time a mechanism is found to attenuate that rise.

John Martin

@Khalid I think we'll just have to disagree. I don't believe that Eastway Village was the catalyst for anything other than perhaps Southside. You are quite right that house prices are increasing on N. Hyde Park, Driver, Cherry Grove, etc., but Eastway Village didn't have anything to do with that. For one thing, Eastway Village properties are not appreciating at all: the example above shows that you can buy an Eastway property for less than it sold for a decade ago. What is happening in East Durham is simply a continuation of what happened earlier in Cleveland-Holloway, Golden Belt, Old North Durham, Burch Ave., Morehead Hill and other neighborhoods close to downtown. People have moved in looking for less expensive housing than they can find in the burbs or Trinity Park or Watts Hillandale. And Eastway's non-appreciation is not unique. A lot of new developments have had declining prices over the last decade. I can show you a lot of houses in Treyburn, for example, that recently sold for $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 less than they did five, seven or ten years ago.

My theory of this is pretty simple: contrast N. Hyde Park Ave. with Eastway Ave. Eastway looks nice enough, but it's all pretty much the same, a cookie-cutter development. By contrast, N. Hyde Park has a variety of different styles and sizes and building materials. And that's the key to how the old Barnes Ave. (now Eastway Ave.) should have been redeveloped. Restore the existing houses and build new houses on the empty lots. Habitat for Humanity has been doing this very successfully in East Durham, and by restoring houses on many blocks, instead of just two, they are having a far greater effect on East Durham that the City ever did.

Khalid Hawthorne

To put things in perspective...we are willing to subsidize parking downtown but people are concerned about subsidizing affordable housing in "luxury" apartment complexes.

@John M. - I didn't disagree with you. I stated the facts. Facts such as Barnes Ave and Few Gardens Projects where the new Hope VI development is located was a crime- and drug-ridden area. You could attribute the majority of Durham's bad reputation to this area. Matter of fact...Morning Glory used to look like New Jack City aka open market for whatever you wanted to buy. The houses on Barnes Ave looked nothing like the houses on N Hyde Park. Several houses were in a flood zone. Habitat (which mostly builds with city and CDBG funds) was building homes in the other areas where like Gattis St and Walltown where the City also invested lots of dollars with partners such as Self-Help.

Not even Self-Help would touch East Durham...well I will not go that far. They were focusing their efforts in neighborhoods around Duke (Walltown and West End) and they still relied on government funding to make it all happen. From a real estate perspective, it was mostly about location...location...location.

The moral of the story...the market does not even sniff Old East Durham or Golden Belt without the investments made by the city. Oh and your $300k number includes funds from many federal and state sources that included brownfield remediation to make the land safe for habitation. A lot of costs beyond just building the units.

By the way, I am all for restoration when it makes sense and the house is functionally, aesthetically and structurally sound aka good bones.

Dallas

DHA is the only one who doesn't know HUD's policy! I come from Ohio and worked for the housing authority and as long as you stay within your voucher amount you can get plus the bedroom size. DHA makes up its own rules as they told my son that he wasn't considered homeless because he and his son live with me and when he showed them a HUD rule that speaks to having a child and living in a place where the lease is not in his name would qualify him as homeless, Ms. Taylor told him they don't follow HUD's rules!

Anon

Why any person of would willingly subject themselves to HUDs rules is beyond me. Public Housing / Urban Renewal / "Negro Removal" destroyed more housing units than it provided. We couldn't undo this debacle fast enough.

Kim

DHA is a joke. My mom has been on Section 8 for a few years. She had to have someone live with her,so I took it on. For 3 years I've been a quote live in aid, which doesn't include my income only hers. After becoming disabled myself we decided to add me on as a live in adult which causes my income to be considered.We were SPECIFICALLY told by a "NEW " employee that we would not have to pay more than 160 a month on a 450 a month rental our landlord hasn't went up on rent in forever. So we get a letter saying that we have to pay 356.00 that's pathetic!!!! After calling DHA a zillion timesthe csupervisor got the worker in room and we were on 3 way,worker lied like a dog and as usual we got nowhere, were even told that I could not go back as a live in aid that I had to stayvas a lve in adult. It's just sickening to me that we can't find ANYWHERE decent to move to with what they'll pay so were stuck in a not so good environment where we live,mold,miodew, standing water and the list goes on

Kate

This post is very informative. Do you have any update about whether DHA has changed their policy on "upscaling" based on the email you received from Joseph Phillips at the HUD Regional Office for this area. Was the email shared with DHA and did they provide any further comment? Appreciate your assistance.

Lisa Sorg

Hi Kate, Yes, the policy has been changed. I attended a DHA meeting last month where a woman asked about it; the then-CEO Dallas Parks said, yes, this is permissible.

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