City To Consider Closing Two Developments

Rhiannon Meyers. Galveston County Daily News. January, 28, 2009.

GALVESTON — Some public housing activists say they will support the Galveston Housing Authority board’s decision to close two public housing developments if they also agree to replace all of the units they demolish.

The concept, called one-for-one replacement, is being touted by activists who argue that the housing authority has traditionally replaced demolished public housing with only a few single-family houses and duplexes.

“We need lots of affordable housing in Galveston,” said Stephen McIntyre, an attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid, a free legal service for low-income people. “This storm has made it even more of a priority for our community.”

At its meeting today, the housing authority’s board will consider demolishing Oleander Homes and Palm Terrace and rehabilitating Magnolia Homes and Cedar Terrace for temporary housing.

All four developments have remained closed since they were flooded during Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13.

Harish Krishnarao, executive director for the housing authority, did not return calls or e-mails seeking information Tuesday.

The decision to demolish two complexes and rehabilitate two is a good compromise, said Leon Phillips, president of Galveston County Coalition for Justice, an advocacy group.

Oleander Homes and Palm Terrace were in poor shape before the storm and therefore are good choices for demolition, Phillips said. The housing authority, however, should consider replacing the decades-old developments with enough high-rise public housing developments to house every resident who lived there before Hurricane Ike, Phillips said.

The developments should also include first-floor space for businesses, such as restaurants, cafés and beauty salons, Phillips said. Developing retail in those areas north of Broadway could help boost the economy and provide jobs to public housing tenants, he said.

“I love the idea,” he said. “I think it will help to get rid of a lot of the drug influence that has been brought in to the community. You don’t see a lot of drug activity around businesses.”

Still, tearing down public housing would displace hundreds of Galveston residents for at least three years, Phillips said. It’s not clear what would happen to former public housing tenants once their federal disaster housing assistance ends in April 2010.

“I think we’re going to lose a big portion of that population,” Phillips said.

Several public housing residents say they continue to live in hotels.

Deborah Wilson, who lived in Oleander Homes, has been living in a hotel for more than four months. “I can’t take it anymore,” she said.