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Proposed public housing project in Orange sparks controversy
ORANGE - by Lauren Huet
Some homeowners are worried about a new public housing project the Housing Authority of the City of Orange plans to build down the street. The Housing Authority plans to use federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to rebuild or refurbish three public housing projects. Two of the units will remain at their current location, and one is being moved to Sikes Road next to Hillbrook Estates. Residents of the neighborhood have different reactions.
Monica Garrett and her husband have lived in Hillbrook Estates for 28 years. She says some of her neighbors are worried about their property value decreasing, but she is not.
"As long as our neighborhood remains safe, that's all I care about," said Garrett. "And I feel quite certain they will choose people that deserve a step up, a helping hand, a foot up in the stirrup of life."
Garrett says she and her husband have received many opportunities, and she wants others to as well.
"They could have had something happen in the middle of their life where they lost everything, and I know if I lost everything, I'd want somebody to be there to help me," said Garrett.
Another resident feels differently.
"My concern about the project is for the children that are directly across the street," said Dee Didyk, who's lived at Hillbrook Estates for 25 years.
Didyk does not want the public housing project built directly across the street from Community Christian School.
"These children, and adults and teachers are in danger of having the hardest criminals in the city of Orange put right here across the street from a school," said Didyk.
The vice chair of the Housing Authority board, Michael Combs, says the board has owned the plot of land on Sikes Road for about 20 years, and it's one of the few locations that meets the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's requirements to grant federal funds.
"Our original plan was to rebuild on the sites that we already had," said Combs. "The money was not available to do that because of the criteria set forth on how it can be spent."
"We do not have the facilities to build it anywhere else," said Combs. "We're on a timeline to get these several millions of dollars that are coming to us as storm help. We have to get it done quickly."
Combs said he hopes the housing project improves the neighborhood.
"We are having some requirements for people to even get a chance to live there," said Comb. "I don't know all of them, a couple of them are you either have to be working, have a job, or be a full time student."
The Housing Authority will also spend the federal funds on rebuilding the Pine Grove public housing complex, and adding on to the Velma Jeter public housing complex.