The Mobile Housing Board (MHB) continues to move forward with plans to get rid of a large chunk of its property on the city’s south side, Executive Director Michael Pierce confirmed this week.
While the board has already approved demolition or disposition plans for R.V. Taylor, Thomas James Place and Boykin Tower, MHB will submit an application by the end of next month. Final approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) isn’t expected until May of 2021.
Once approved, Pierce told Lagniappe, the complexes would be out of MHB’s possession by 2026. He said he hoped to sell the property.
“The amount of deterioration has gotten to the degree that upkeep costs aren’t feasible,” he said.
The amount of neglect coupled with financial issues at the authority before Pierce took over in 2019 forced HUD to require a total asset repositioning for the agency, Pierce said. The repositioning represents a shift away from the standard public housing model to a voucher-centric program. The program would allow private developers to invest in affordable housing complexes moving forward.
“Repositioning allows us … to be able to bring other facilities up to code,” he said. “We’re not divesting ourselves of all public housing. The balance of our real estate portfolio will remain with us.”
The residents of these three communities have been notified, per HUD rules, Pierce said, and are eligible to move out of the area using housing choice, or Section 8, vouchers. Coupled with this, MHB will have an “aggressive” marketing campaign aimed at landlords to spur participation in the voucher program, Pierce said.
For those who want to stay in the neighborhoods, Pierce said, the board and city are working on adding 300-plus housing units to the area in the next two to four years. This is something the city’s Senior Director of Neighborhood Development James Roberts has previously confirmed.
“If they want to stay, we’ll be partnering with developers to replace units,” Pierce said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to do a one-for-one replacement, but we’ll get close to it.”
In addition, MHB is required to pay “actual and reasonable” moving costs for residents.
As for what lies ahead for the MHB property in question, aside from wanting to sell it, Pierce said nothing has been determined.
However, the property’s proximity to the Brookley Aeroplex means a possible sale to the Mobile Airport Authority (MAA) isn’t out of the realm of possibility. MAA President Chris Curry said the agency would be interested in the property if it became available, but added there have been no conversations between the two entities at this point.
Most likely, Curry said, the property just across Interstate 10 from the border of the Brookley footprint could be used in the future as a place to move or attract non-airline-related businesses who currently lease space at the aeroplex.
“It could serve as a place to potentially relocate non-aviation-related businesses or new businesses,” Curry said. “It’s a good alternative for business relocation.”
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