By Joseph D. Bryant
The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District
The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District is seeking federal approval to demolish outdated apartments in Collegeville and North Birmingham, some near railroad tracks, overpasses and other potentially hazardous areas.
Plans call for the demolition of some units at Collegeville Center and eventual demolition of the entire North Birmingham Homes complex.
“These are going to be better communities and these are going to be safer communities,” said HABD President/CEO Michael Lundy.
The HABD Board of Commissioners recently agreed to ask the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for demolition permission. If approved, officials estimate the process would begin in about a year, and would be done in phases.
HABD will submit its letter to HUD this month.
Board Chairman Cardell Davis said the housing authority “is committed to ensuring that our residents of public housing are living in an environment that is clean and safe. The demolition of units in Collegeville and North Birmingham Homes is a positive step in that direction.”
Lundy stressed that no qualified HABD resident is in jeopardy of losing a place to live. The demolition is designed to enhance the quality of life for residents, he said.
In Collegeville, the housing authority seeks to eliminate 23 buildings containing 158 apartments. Collegeville Center has a total of 394 units.
“The ultimate goal is to move everybody off that site,” said Lundy, restating the vision for Collegeville he delivered when he arrived at HABD a year ago.
The plan for North Birmingham Homes involves razing the entire complex of 271 units. Demolition would occur in phases and would not begin for a least a year.
Lundy and HABD staff have met with residents in Collegeville and North Birmingham to explain the process.
“We will be meeting with each and every family that is affected and we will look at [their] specific situation,” Lundy said. “It may be difficult for [them] to see that change as we speak, but trust me, it is going to happen.”
Plans for Collegeville and North Birmingham are also in line with the housing authority’s overall mission to reduce high concentrations of poverty and usher in more modern forms of affordable housing.
“We will create more green space and it will be a safer site,” Lundy said. “It will take time to make it happen.”
The North Birmingham and Collegeville moves are also a response to long-held concerns and frustration about environmental issues nearby. Plans to move North Birmingham and Collegeville Center residents to other locations address both environmental concerns and meet HABD’s mission to provide safe housing.
“We’re not going to put anybody out. We’re not going to kick anybody out as long as you’re following the rules,” Lundy said. “For those families that are working, they’re going to shoot to the top of the waiting list.”
A design team is working on the redevelopment plan for the North Birmingham community.
HABD is evaluating all options for relocating residents, including vouchers to the private market, moving to existing sites and even building or restoring existing housing throughout the city.
No matter the combination, the final plan will include moving residents from their current location and reducing the concentration of people in a single development.
“We’re looking at different parcels throughout the city,” Lundy said. “It’s not going to be the way that it is now. There will no longer be hundreds and hundreds of units on one parcel.”
Lundy promised to continue to meet with residents and work to meet their specific needs throughout the process. He also stressed a new HABD focus on self-sufficiency for all able-bodied residents.
“We want to get residents to a point where they won’t need public housing anymore,” he said. “We are committed to making sure that residents have the resources needed when that time comes.”