30 Nov 2012
What’s Next for Residents at Lincoln?
By Aiden Graham
This October Durham’s critical affordable housing shortage once again made front page news. The most recent episode, a crisis precipitated by the closure of one of the few remaining apartment complexes serving very low-income tenants.
On September 28th every resident in the 150-unit Lincoln Apartment complex received written 30-day notice that the property owners, the Lincoln Foundation, planned to close the complex. By mid-October over 150 people were faced with homelessness after Halloween.
People’s Durham organizer Sendolo Diaminah, a tenant organizer in the nearby public housing community McDougald Terrace, was alerted to the situation a few days after tenants received their 30-day notice. He quickly started holding regular meetings with residents, both to educate people about their rights as tenants and to encourage people to organize and harness the power of collective action.
On November 1st residents got word that their efforts had paid off. Larry Suitt, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Lincoln Foundation, the non-profit who owned the complex, agreed not to file eviction proceedings against people who were unable to move out. He also hinted that the property had a prospective buyer, possibly meaning people could stay in their homes long-term.
Unfortunately, for many however anxieties continued to run high because so many questions remain unanswered. One positive development is that Housing for New Hope, a local affordable housing organization that provides transitional housing for recently homeless families, is teaming with Steve Schewel and the City’s Rapid Rehousing Program to help relocate the residents who can and want to move.
This city program is ideal because it tracks residents and comes with two to six months of attached social services to ensure that people end up in a quality, stable housing situation. Because of those services, however, it is also a very costly program. The City only has enough to fund relocation for approximately 10 families at this time. While many community and faith leaders have stepped forward to pledge help raising additional funds it’s going to take at least $25,000 and there’s no guarantee that everyone will find a place.
Recognizing this, some resident-leaders are hoping to also raise funds to help make needed repairs and to help people get caught up on their rent and utility bills. It’s as of yet unclear whether a new owner will emerge before the new year, but leaders of the tenant organization remain hopeful. Neither a new owner nor a successful relocation of every family will solve the city’s ongoing affordable housing shortage, but the leadership and tenant organization being built in Southeast Central Durham have the potential to influence the city’s plans for the future of the neighborhood in a way that positively impacts working class and poor families.
Some fundraising efforts are already underway but if you or someone you know has time, money, skills, or labor you are willing to offer to support these efforts please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-429-9825. We will be sure to you guide you to the appropriate channels.
For more on our work at Lincoln see these articles: