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New Hanover County loans Wilmington Housing Authority $1.65 million

By late October, PODS storage units and dumpsters were visible everywhere in the Creekwood neighborhood.
Ben Schachtman
By late October, PODS storage units and dumpsters were visible everywhere in the Creekwood neighborhood.

New Hanover County has joined the city of Wilmington in an effort to save the Wilmington Housing Authority from falling off a fiscal cliff. That money will help keep displaced residents housed.

One hundred and fifty families are still displaced because of mold problems in their public housing units, many living in hotels. But WHA’s new executive director, Tyrone Garrett, promised to cut costs and get 98 units back online within six months.

“To be totally honest, this is our plan B," he told county commissioners at a June 20 meeting. "We've gone with Plan A originally before my arrival, and we find ourselves at this particular point. We are trying to use other programs, a Housing Choice Voucher program to try and find private housing for residents. We estimate that we could possibly house 30 families in that capacity.”

Garrett is also looking to use existing rental assistance programs to pay for some of the hotel costs for displaced residents. As for repairs, Garret said it will take $6.3 million to get 98 units online in six months while covering living costs for displaced residents. The city and county will provide $3.3 million of that, with another $3 million coming from a state grant.

Before the board voted unanimously in favor of giving the authority this loan, county commissioner Jonathan Barfield had tough words for the previous leadership of WHA.

“They find themselves in a quandary for me with mismanagement, prior to you coming here, Mr. Tyrone,” Barfield said.

Commissioner Bill Rivenbark put some blame on the federal government as well, but Garrett made it clear he doesn’t want to burn any bridges while he tries to pull the housing authority out of its mold crisis.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.