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WHA director updates New Hanover commissioners on mold crisis

At Monday morning’s regular New Hanover County Commissioners meeting, commissioners heard a presentation from the Wilmington Housing Authority with updates, and ambitious goals.

Tyrone Garrett, the newest director of WHA, has been in his position officially for four months. Hired in the late spring, Garrett was hired in the midst of WHA's mold crisis, which had displaced over a hundred families, including hundreds of children.

In his presentation, he was clear that he wanted WHA’s operations to be more transparent to the commissioners. One of the chief criticisms of WHA in the past has been poor communication, with serious disconnects between the authority's tenants, administration, and board — and between WHA and other local governments.

Before Garrett’s hire, there were 150 displaced families — now that number is 104 — and Garrett and his team are pushing to bring a total of 25 additional units online by the end of this month.

Related: Over a year into the mold crisis, WHA's new leader says progress is being made

If families choose to move into housing sooner, they have the option of “housing choice” — or Section 8 housing — which around 50 families are currently eligible for.

WHA is also partnering with two local stores to provide stipends for replacing furniture; affected families can either receive store credit, or a slightly reduced cash stipend to take elsewhere.

Garrett was very clear that the stipend would not be able to replace the special items that families have lost, but it’s another way to offer a helping hand.

"I just want to say, it doesn't necessarily make all the families whole. But it's the best we could do with the budget we had in place," he said.

Garrett has also promised more fine and granular invoice reporting to the commissioners, including weekly expense reports.

Commissioners all expressed approval of Garrett and his team's work getting units back online, and the various programs they offer to help affected families. Vice chair Deb Hayes reiterated the county's commitment to supporting WHA.

It's worth noting that things are moving far faster under Garrett's leadership than they were under Katrina Redmon, the former WHA director who quit just as the mold crisis was hitting its breaking point. But it's not clear if Garrett will be able to achieve his goal, admittedly ambitious, of getting all of WHA's families back in their homes by the end of the year.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY and graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Her story focus revolves her deep care for children, young adults and mental health. You can reach her at cmojica@whqr.org.