Some residents under the Orange Housing Authority feared board members were trying to force residents into the streets and voiced those opinions at the monthly board meeting Tuesday.

Glenda Chavis was one of those residents. She lives on a disability income of $698 a month.

“We have no intent to put any person out on the street,” said Mary McKenna, chairman of the commissioners appointed by the city of Orange. “As the Housing Authority for the city of Orange, we’re there to provide housing for people. That is our goal that is our vision that is what we dream about doing.”

The Rev. Raymond Young is employed by the Housing Authority as the public housing quality control manager and Section 3 coordinator. He said the residents’ concerns are valid. He said residents were concerned about mixing housing; multifamily mixed with public housing. The objective is to provide quality and affordable housing for low income and medium income residents, but at the same time they don’t want to isolate them and say it’s all public housing. You want to have a variety of residents in that area.

The residents are concerned if it all goes that way, they will be forced into the “choice vouchers” which would let them live anywhere, but it would also require them to pay more such as water or higher rent when many are on fixed income.

When the public housing at the location of the new James Zay Roberts Plaza was demolished after Hurricane Ike, only 16 families were living there because those were the only units habitable. Those residents were relocated until the James Zay Roberts Plaza was built, replacing the 90 units. Those 16 families were given the option to move back into the new housing. Instead of the other 74 units becoming public housing, it was reassigned as multifamily units available to anyone and provides tax credits for the contractors for building affordable housing. There has been an issued raised that since all the units demolished were public housing, they should all be so now. It’s an issue that will have to be looked at since the policy of mixing public housing with multifamily units is becoming the norm.

“It’s a very complicated project as you might guess,” said McKenna. “To have federal housing you have to comply with all the federal laws. You have to comply with all the state laws. This was built with hurricane money, CDBG money. You have to comply with all their laws and you have to comply with all the city laws, the permits, the utilities, the embankments, everything else, it’s very complicated, very large project.

“The bottom line is we want everyone to have nice, new, beautiful housing. That’s what we’re trying to do,” said McKenna.

Of the resistance experienced today by some residents, McKenna said, “They’re afraid, change is hard. If they want to get beautiful new housing like you see out there, they’re going to have to go through change. We’ll get there and we’ll get them there,” she said.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.