Plans to demolish Augusta’s oldest housing project and relocate its residents are moving forward.
On Thursday, Augusta Housing Authority board members approved the hiring of BTBB Inc., a Macon, Ga., architectural firm, to provide consulting services on an application to demolish the 389-unit Cherry Tree Crossing complex.
The application, expected to reach the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in January, must show that costs to renovate the complex exceed 57.14 percent of the cost of building a new one, authority Executive Director Jacob Oglesby said.
With the filing of that application and another one to HUD to obtain Section 8 vouchers for the 389 families to be displaced, staff probably won’t begin meeting individually with residents until the spring, and relocations would start in the summer, Oglesby said.
The authority announced plans to demolish the structure last month, ahead of HUD approval, to ensure the community was behind the project, authority Chairman Rodger Murchison said.
“If we didn’t get the politicians’ approval and the residents’ approval, why ask HUD to do anything if we’re going to get stopped locally?” said Murchison, who was recently reappointed to another five-year term.
The authority has met twice with residents about the plans. About 40 percent of residents, typically senior citizens, will likely prefer to move to another authority development instead of using a Section 8 voucher to rent HUD-approved private housing, Oglesby said.
One privately managed complex that accepts residents with Section 8 vouchers is River Glen apartments in east Augusta. The complex recently requested and obtained a $46-per-unit increase in residents’ Section 8 utility allowance based on actual utility bills. The authority, which issues Section 8 vouchers, approved the adjustment Thursday.
The authority is getting better at moving residents and demolishing housing projects, Oglesby said Thursday. Gilbert Manor and Underwood Homes were torn down to make way for other developments.
A study found that 80 percent of relocated Underwood Homes residents and 70 percent of Gilbert Manor residents still hold Section 8 vouchers, Oglesby said.
“I think we did much better at Underwood,” board member David Steele said, “than we did at Gilbert.”