Council Delays Approving Public Housing Funding

A public housing development in the northeast quadrant has been pushed back again after the City Council voted last week to defer approving funds for the project for at least two weeks.

Council members wrestled between the need to replace the aged Northeast Duplexes and lamenting the process under which tenants were relocated from the homes in preparation for demolition and construction of the Creston Park affordable housing neighborhood.

After a nearly hour-long discussion, the council approved deferring the item in a 5-to-3 vote. 

The item is expected to come back to the council with an amendment, first suggested by City Councilman Bradley Carter (Ward 1), requiring monthly updates on the project.

City Councilwoman Nikki Nice (Ward 7) said there was inadequate communication between the housing authority and the residents of the duplexes during the relocation process. 

She will support moving the project forward with the condition that things are more transparent in the future.

The project is located in Ward 7.

“Everyone deserves adequate housing,” Nice said.    “The question is: At what cost?”

Councilwoman Nice said the development–which will include mixed-income apartments, townhomes, four-plex cottages, as well as a community resource center, medical clinic, senior housing and assisted living–is an example of gentrification.

Creston Park would replace public housing duplexes just east of Martin Luther King Avenue on NE 26th, NE 27th, NE 28th and NE 29th Streets, which were built in the 1940’s and are fraught with issues. 

At least 40 percent of the 370 affordable family homes at Creston Park will be set aside for public housing vouchers, where tenants who make less than 50 percent of the area median income only pay 30 percent of their income in rent.

The rest of the units will be available at a scale of rents for those making 60 percent to 80 percent of the area median income.

Due to rising construction costs and a $5.5 million funding gap, the Oklahoma City Housing Authority is requesting $1.25 million in General Obligation Limited Tax bond money to proceed with the first of the project’s two phases.  The city has set aside $10 million in these bond funds for qualifying affordable housing developments.

The funds were requested in June 2021, but the item was deferred at a September council meeting. 

It was placed back on the council agenda for March 29 and now is set for final vote with amendments at the April 26 meeting.

City Councilman Mark Stonecipher (Ward 8), one of the three nay votes on deferring the item, said the cost of the project will continue to go up.

“Either we need to just vote this down and move on to something else or we need to move it forward,” Stonecipher said.  “And the reason why we need to move it forward as quickly as possible is because building costs and materials are going up daily.  And that’s going to make a bigger funding gap.”

Others at the meeting said the council shouldn’t delay giving the community better housing.

City Manager Craig Freeman said the project will be the most significant investment in affordable housing, in terms of number of units, in “many, many years.”

“Delaying this further will have a negative impact,” City Manager Freeman said.

City Councilman Bradley Carter (Ward 1) said he was concerned not moving the project along would only make the situation worse for those still living in the duplexes and those hoping eventually to move to Creston Park.

Councilwoman Nice said she regrets that it has come to a point, where the need to replace the duplexes outweighs the need to protect residents being impacted by the process.

She said, in addition to monthly updates on the project, she also would like the addition of at least one council member to the housing authority’s board.

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