As of Friday, 102 families had moved and 253 families remained at Cherry Tree Crossing. Director of Resident Services Buddy Oldfield said the numbers change daily, and those who have already moved did so voluntarily.
On Aug. 5, the housing authority received final approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish the complex on 15th Street. Tenants were given a 90-day notice before they could begin relocations, although residents could waive their rights to the waiting period before the three-month mark, which passed Thursday.
A modern, mixed-income apartment complex will be built in Cherry Tree’s place using tax credits.
The housing authority will continue to work one-on-one with residents to find replacement housing for them, Oldfield said. He hopes to have Cherry Tree empty by June.
A majority of families have chosen to take Section 8 vouchers to use on rental houses or apartments. Others asked the housing authority to relocate them to another housing project.
So far, 65 families with vouchers have moved and 21 moved to public housing. The remaining 16 moved on their own, were evicted, left the public housing program or died, Oldfield said.
Another 147 families have received vouchers and are trying to find places to use them, waiting on a required inspection or are moving. Twenty-seven families are moving to public housing.
“Over the next several months, we will slowly continue to move people from public housing to public housing,” Oldfield said. “People with vouchers will continue to make their moves.”
Delores Brown and her four children are waiting to move into a new house using a Section 8 voucher. The family’s belongings have been packed in boxes for weeks, anticipating the move from their home of 11 years.
“I’m happy to be leaving,” Brown said. “I never wanted this to be my permanent or my last stop.”
Brown planned to move into the new house over the weekend, but the house failed a required inspection because the gas was not turned on. It’s not clear when a second inspection will occur, although it could happen this week, she said.
The housing authority only has a few inspectors to inspect all the Section 8 houses or apartments, Oldfield said. They have been scheduled several weeks out, he said.
Oldfield said finding public housing units with the appropriate number of bedrooms will take the longest time. Families that qualify for one bedroom cannot move into a larger unit, he said.
Some elderly residents have resisted moving to high-rise apartments operated by the housing authority, Oldfield said. As one-bedroom units open at other complexes, he is trying to keep them open for Cherry Tree residents.
“I’m trying to accommodate everyone as best as I possibly can,” Oldfield said.
Beginning next week, the housing authority will contact about 40 families that have not verified whether they will move to public housing or use a Section 8 voucher, Oldfield said. They need to begin the process, he added.
“I don’t want anybody to fall through the cracks,” he said.
At Cherry Tree, discarded mattresses, sofas and other furniture are piled high in dumpsters. The windows and doors of several dozen units are boarded up, which the housing authority did when each unit was vacated.
Oldfield said Richmond County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been alerted to watch for people breaking into and trying to live in the vacant units.