Public housing the topic of special council meeting

Willow Heights / Google Maps

UPDATE: See our City Council recap story for coverage of this discussion.

Public housing will be the topic at a special City Council meeting Tuesday evening in Fayetteville.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he scheduled the meeting to hear from the public and Council members before signing off on the Fayetteville Housing Authority board’s annual and rolling five-year capital plan.

Board officials last week submitted their plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as required by federal law. Jordan has until the end of the month to provide his signature, but the City Council wasn’t scheduled to meet again until Aug. 7.

The Housing Authority owns and maintains three public housing complexes – Hillcrest Towers, Lewis Plaza and Willow Heights – and manages Morgan Manor, a former public housing property which has been converted to function under a Section 8 housing program called Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). The program uses public equity, but also provides benefits to private investors in exchange for providing capital needed to fund housing improvements and provide assistance to low-income residents. Lewis Plaza may also be demolished and converted to RAD, according to board documents.

Tuesday’s discussion is expected to center around the board’s 2017 vote to sell the aging Willow Heights property and move its residents to Morgan Manor. That decision has since irked residents who would rather see improvements at Willow Heights instead of adding more low-income residents to the Morgan Manor area.

The conditions at Willow Heights have sparked increased public attention in recent weeks, partly because of the hot temperatures the area has sustained this summer, and also because of a broken water pipe that left residents without water for about 36 hours last week.

A group of residents recently organized a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to purchase 50 energy-efficient air conditioners for the complex. As of Monday afternoon, the account had raised $11,215 towards its goal of $15,000. The deadline to contribute is Friday, July 27.

In a news release, Jordan encouraged all residents, especially those who live at Willow Heights and Lewis Plaza, to attend and speak at the special City Council meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall in room 219.