A dream postponed: Hayti Reborn leaders file letter protesting alleged exclusion from affordable housing planning in Durham’s Hayti district

This week, Officials of a local limited liability company which proposed to redevelop the city’s main historic black community into a residential, educational and economic district have announced that they have filed a letter of protest against the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) . They say the DHA has left them out of plans to create affordable housing in the downtown district.

Faced with an acute affordable housing crisis and an affordable housing requirement that requires less than 6% ownership, Hayti Reborn officials say the DHA’s approach to redevelopment Hayti will only reinforce the gentrification already underway in the whole district.

Hayti Reborn officials filed the protest letter on February 4. The letter writers say they are ‘a community-based and driven organization and initiative supporting a vision of a more racially, socially and economically equitable Durham, particularly with regard to the historic District of Haiti and [the] Fayetteville Street Corridor.

DHA spokeswoman Aalayah Sanders told the INDIA that the selection process for redevelopment of the area was based on criteria set forth in a request for proposals submitted to the agency and on policies of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as DHA. Sanders did not share the criteria with the INDIA.

“DHA will respond to the Nomination Protest accordingly and has no further comment at this time,” Sanders wrote in an email.

This summer, the first federally-sanctioned June 16 holiday in Durham marked the announcement of an intriguing community initiative, “Hayti Reborn,” which aims to rebuild the community along the Fayetteville Street corridor.

“The vision is to see the rebirth of the community using the same vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem it was once known for internationally,” said Henry McKoy, director of entrepreneurship at the School of Business. North Carolina Central University. INDIA in June.

McKoy, who is the director of the project, generated a lot of excitement with this announcement and the unveiling of a triple economic, educational and residential development that envisions ownership of homes and businesses that will not displace residents.

Haiti has languished for decades, traumatized by an urban renewal effort in the 1960s and early 1970s with the construction of Highway 147. The misnamed program destroyed 4,000 homes and 500 businesses in the neighborhood.

McKoy told the INDIA that the loss of the old Hayti “is incalculable, possibly billions of dollars in lost economic value”.

Fayette Place – 20 acres of vacant land that was once the site of the Fayetteville Street public housing complex – was the hub of McKoy’s vision for a resurrected community. But Hayti Reborn appeared dead in the water this month when the DHA announced plans to build more than 1,700 residential units aimed at providing affordable housing and creating new residential communities in Durham city centre.

The DHA’s $470 million development plan calls for the construction of residential units at three sites, including the community of Fayette Place, where the Hayti Reborn Project has proposed development.

The News and the Observer reported that Hayti Reborn was one of 12 development proposals at the three sites, but DHA instead opted to work with Durham Development Partners, a joint venture team that includes F7 International Development, Gilbane Development Company and The Integral Group, LLC , an Atlanta-based group that specializes in developing urban communities.

Durham Development Partners will develop Fayette Place, with plans to build a new DHA office and criminal justice resource centre, as well as over 1,000 mixed-income residential units and a new administrative office.

The Integral Group will redevelop the Forest Hill Heights community, including a project of 700 mixed-income residential units and 73,000 square feet of commercial space.

Although the chosen developers have all expressed their commitment to “respecting, recognizing and honoring the history and heritage of the community”, this does not comfort Hayti Reborn officials, who say the basis of their protest includes a lack of community input, adding that the most recent conversation DHA officials had with the community about Fayette Place was “a few years ago.”

Hayti Reborn officials also state in the protest letter that DHA’s failure to include the community in the developer selection decision-making process is against its original agreement with the community development department of Hayti Reborn. the City of Durham and a grant provision of $4.2 million. They say a condition of the agreement states that the DHA “shall also work with the city to create” a community engagement program to provide meaningful opportunities for the Durham community, including but not limited to limited therein, the communities of Hayti and Central North Carolina University, to contribute. as part of the redevelopment of the site and surrounding areas.’ »

Hayti Reborn officials further claim that the DHA has not given enough weight to the city’s commitment to “equity and shared prosperity.”

“Hayti Reborn believes its proposal offered the strongest plan for shared prosperity and equity” with respect to home and business ownership, “than any of the competing proponents.”

They have also questioned the proposed land use for the developments, while criticizing what they see as the DHA’s primary focus on housing.

“Instead, a balance between housing and economic development/job creation/entrepreneurship that allows for upward community mobility of current residents of the community is what community stakeholders view as the highest and best use of Fayette Place property,” the letter read. “A housing-only, or primarily, approach will solidify community gentrification.”

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us ensure the viability of fearless surveillance reporting and coverage of essential arts and culture in the Triangle.

Follow Durham writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Margie D. Carlisle