Mobile Housing Board officials and Mayor Sandy Stimpson celebrated the beginning of the demolition of Roger Williams Homes earlier this month. The demolition process began after years of planning and delays to replace the decades-old housing complex with new affordable housing.
The final 116 families were relocated from the facility in October 2016, but issues with the demolition agreement lingered until September of this year when the board approved the process with developer Hunt Cos.
The demolition process will take several months, according to a statement from MHB. The process should be completed in May and will cost roughly $2.5 million.
Roger Williams Homes, one of the largest low-income housing developments in the city, was opened in March 1954. The apartments are undersized by today’s standards, lack energy-efficiency features and were expensive to maintain, the statement read. The also became a magnet for blight and crime.
At its meeting Dec. 13, the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners approved a tax credit application from Hunt Cos. for phase one of a redevelopment plan for the site, which includes senior housing.
“That’s an awesome adoption,” MHB Chairwoman Kim Pettway said of the unanimous vote to approve the application. “It’s long-awaited.”
The application calls for a 70-unit senior living facility on the site. Twenty-two of the units will be covered with project-based housing choice vouchers. The other units will be made affordable through Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) subsidies. There will also be HOME and Community Development Block Grant applications for the facility.
Hunt is applying for the competitive 9 percent tax credits. If successful, the developer can begin work on the first phase. Other phases include more multifamily and single-family residences. Much of the land where Roger Williams Homes stands now is in a floodplain and can’t be built upon.
In other business, State Rep. Adline Clarke announced her intention to retire from her work with the board and Mobile Development Enterprises at the end of the year, Pettway confirmed.
Clarke had been the president of MDE for some time, but following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, MHB was forced to make changes to the structure of its nonprofit arm.
The board had voted to move all of the MDE positions under MHB control and is still working on a reorganization chart with the new positions listed. The expectation is that employees will have to re-apply for jobs under MHB and the Mobile County Personnel Board.
The board officially welcomed new Executive Director Akinola Popoola to Mobile. He told commissioners he was currently on a listening tour and had learned a lot already. Popoola said he would start either attending resident meetings or sending a member of his staff to do so.
“We need to have a closer relationship with our residents,” he said.
A full interview with Popoola is available on lagniappemobile.com.