Residents deserve answers about plans to demolish their homes
Hernando TodayThe issue: Proposal to demolish 126 low-income housing units at Hillside Estates and Summit Villas and relocate their residents. Our opinion: The Brooksville Housing Authority is starting with the end instead of the beginning.
Published: September 28, 2010
Published: September 28, 2010
Can you imagine getting a notice in the mail telling you that the government is planning to tear down your home?
Residents of Brooksville's low-income housing complexes at Hillside Estates and Summit Villas have every right to be raging mad at the Brooksville Housing Authority.
Last week they received notice the housing authority was submitting an application to have their homes demolished.
They don't know.
Beyond that, the housing authority could provide little more information.
Our question: Why would the housing authority start with the end of the process? Why wouldn't public hearings be held first to discuss the future of these properties and come to some consensus with residents on the best way to move forward?
After all, the housing authority is supposed to exist for the residents, not vice versa.
And if both complexes are razed, would there even be a need for the Brooksville Housing Authority to exist? Those are the organization's only properties. There are no plans to build new housing on the properties. What exactly would the authority have authority over?
Last Wednesday, the housing authority held its first public hearing to submit an application to demolish the two sites. The organization has already hired Smart Inc. to help with the demolition application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development.
But housing authority officials couldn't answer any of the residents' questions and provided no specifics about where they would go. No one could explain why or when it was decided to move forward with an application to demolish the two complexes.
Housing authority officials would only document questions and concerns posed by the residents.
Ronnie McLean, who has had many dealings with the housing authority in the past, asked the best question: "How can you begin to ask questions when there are no facts behind this?"
Something is very strange here, and it's even odder that nobody associated with the housing authority can answer basic questions.
On Thursday, two housing authority board members said tenants need to be patient as they work to answer their questions. They promised to keep residents in the loop.
That's how the process should have started.
Board member Cliff Manuel said the process includes answering all residents' concerns. It's essential for the demolition process to move forward.
"This is a two- to three-year process and it never completes itself until all their concerns are addressed and brought to everyone's attention," Manuel told Hernando Today. "This is the beginning part of the process and there are always questions at the beginning. But I can tell you it's not going to be kept a secret."
While those words are comforting, they come after tenants have gotten up in arms over the matter. When the executive director can't answer residents' basic questions, that's a problem. It's only human nature that the residents are fearful and skeptical.
But there's a simple solution.
Board members need to call a special meeting at the sites to address residents' concerns.
And they need to come with answers.