By KATIE INGRAM
Earlier this week, residents at a Metro Regional Housing Authority development in the Bayers Westwood area were concerned they’d have to move out of their homes.
Over 80 residents of Federal/Romans Avenue development, which is made up of about 350 units, received a letter from the housing authority. The letter states that some units are 4-bedroom units and tenants who occupy those units are “over-housed.” Tenants were told they’d be moved to another unit, based on their “household size, when one becomes available,” as the housing authority has a wait-list for family-style housing and “have a responsibility to assist them.” They would also not be guaranteed a unit in the area they currently reside.
Bernice Milton, 64, who’s lived on Federal Avenue for 39 years, was one of the concerned residents. She says that she and others were surprised and shocked when they received their letters.
“I cried for three days and was throwing up; I didn’t eat anything until yesterday,” she says. “This is very, very hard.”
Many residents don’t have other places to go or have disabilities and medical issues that prevent them from moving into smaller units.
“I was brought in here 39 years ago with medical conditions, which I still have,” she says. “I can’t be confined to an apartment or anything like that.”
Others have more serious medical conditions to worry about and the letter has caused issues. Milton says that one resident has cancer and hearing the news affected her health.
“She was so upset she ended up in the hospital and she’s still there,” says Milton.
The Department of Community Services received the letter on Feb. 24, days after tenants were given their notices. Acting Community Services Minister, Kelly Regan says that the letter was not approved by the department or the Minister, so they put a stop to the process.
“This is not an acceptable approach to dealing with people who live in affordable housing communities,” says Regan. “We don’t treat tenants this way, so we’ve instructed staff to reach out to every single person who received a letter to ensure them we’re not moving forward and they do not have to move.”
Regan adds Community Services always tries to keep in touch with tenants to make sure their housing needs are met.
Before community services received the letter, many residents attempted to contact the Housing Authority to better understand the organization’s request and have their questions answered. However, their questions were ignored.
“They hummed and hawed; what we’re got from them is that ‘we don’t care,’” says Milton. “There’s no need of this and there needs to someone that can stand behind us; it’s not right.”
Community Services is looking into the issue. Regan says they will try to find out what happened and why the letter was allowed to be sent out.
“We have to understand exactly what happened before we can deal with it,” she says. “This is not the way the process is supposed to work.”