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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

WHA met with frustration, concern as it presents worsening displacement crisis to Wilmington City Council

Wilmington Housing Authority members presenting to City Council
Wilmington Housing Authority members presenting to City Council

At it’s Tuesday night meeting, Wilmington City Council heard an update from the Wilmington Housing Authority regarding the displacement of families due to mold.

Council members expressed frustration and tried to understand how mold has displaced 155 families in Wilmington — leaving 161 adults and 315 children in hotels for months. That's nearly 50% more families pushed out of their homes than in December, when WHA wrote a letter to the mayor's office, laying out how it intended to address the crisis.

Related: Wilmington Housing Authority's mold crisis has gotten worse; authority officials say they're taking proactive steps

Wilmington Housing Authority Board Chair Al Sharp, who addressed council, alluded to lack of leadership, miscommunication, and not enough staff as reasons for the delay in fixing the issue.

But Councilman Kevin Spears felt the issue was there before changes were made within the organization.

“I didn’t really want to get into that part of it, where you say the leadership staff disappeared, I don’t think that’s what happened. This is highly problematic and we really haven’t been vocal on it," he said.

As council pushed for answers about when the mold problem started, it was revealed that a thorough inspection of all the units was not conducted after Hurricane Florence in 2018. Council felt an inspection of unit interiors and exteriors at the time could have been detected the mold problem.

Vernice Hamilton, interim CEO, tried to address council's concern.

“The mold issue started really ramping up in 2021, we had some mold issues in 2020 and 2019, but not on the level that we have now. Nowhere near what we are facing now," she said.

Wilmington Housing Authority is requesting $13 million in emergency grants to rehabilitate the units that have already been inspected. Council seemed unconvinced this was a complicated accurate estimate of the total WHA would need. Mayor Bill Saffo asked pointedly, to be sure that would be enough to resolve the crisis.

“I just want to make damn certain, if I’m up there and we ask for the full amount, I don’t want to go up there and take a bite at the apple twice, cause I might find a worm in it," he said.

Ashley Brown is from from Houston, TX. She holds a BA in Mass Communication from Sam Houston State University and an MA in Professional Communication and Digital Media from Texas Southern University. Her love of news, radio, and entertainment led her to the field of journalism. As a creative person, she loves the journalistic challenge of putting stories together. And as a future news reporter, she hopes to tell stories that reach and affect people. In her spare time, she enjoys music, reading, journaling, spending time with friends and family, and trying out new brunch places to eat.