NEW ALBANY— The New Albany Housing Authority received funding Tuesday to redevelop public housing in the Beechwood neighborhood, a project that is a part of the city’s plan to improve housing and provide affordable options.
The public housing complex will be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up, including all new infrastructure. The project is being funded in part by $2.4 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds. The plan was approved at Tuesday’s redevelopment commission meeting.
The project is expected to cost $24 million to $26 million and take two years to complete. The housing authority plans to start demolition in March 2022.
Once completed the housing will go from 114 units to 83 units. Dave Duggins, executive director of the housing authority, said during the meeting that one of the goals of the project is to make the area less dense.
Of the 83 units, 53 will be single-family and duplex-style homes, and 30 will be single-family apartments preferred for seniors. The senior-preferred units will overlook the Silver Street Park across the street, an aspect Duggins said he thinks will be appealing to that demographic.
Along with the rental units, the final project will include 12 lots that will be sold at a market-rate for ownership, which is planned to contribute to both increasing affordable housing and raising the number of homeowners in the city.
Forty-three percent of New Albany’s population are renters, higher than surrounding areas — which average 26% — according to a city news release from Oct. 7 about findings from the housing study.
This variety of homes at the property is supposed to create a mixed-income neighborhood.
“We’re very proud of that. It’s one of the very, very few in the country that is like that,” Duggins said.
Because residents will move out of the complex before demolition, Duggins said they have met with the residents and are dedicated to making sure they are all comfortable and understand what is going on with the process. The housing authority has hired a relocation specialist to assist the residents.
The relocation specialist is to ensure every resident is assisted as residents are moved to new locations, Duggins said.
Though the project will take two years to complete, there will be a phased move-in as residences are completed throughout construction.
Duggins said that all former residents have the ability to move back into the housing, but they are not guaranteed a spot. All returning residents have to again be certified that their income is still eligible for public housing. He said he expects about 30% of former residents to return to the property. All current residents will be provided with a tenant-protection voucher, he said.
Duggins said the new housing will be a more livable and walkable area, moving away from the barracks-style property that it is now.
The 80-year-old development is one example of how the median age of structures in the city is higher than both Floyd County and Indiana, a fact that was stated in the city’s news release on the housing study.
“It’s by far out of [alignment] with what modern housing developments provide, both in terms of space and accommodations, the arrangement, the infrastructure is very tired,” redevelopment commission member Adam Dickey said during the meeting.
The city’s news release regarding Beechwood said the development has fallen into disrepair in the last decade because of large maintenance cost shortfalls within the federal Housing and Urban Development department.
Dickey and commission member Jason Applegate both applauded the housing authority’s plan to not just dress up the area but to improve the quality of the housing.
“This is a once-in-a-generational chance to make, not just a substantial investment, but to make a major improvement in this housing,” Dickey said.
Now a cluster of red brick homes, the public housing community stands out compared to the pastel siding homes across Beechwood Avenue and neighboring the complex. Duggins said that the new housing will match the character and elevation of the properties in the surrounding area.
The entire redevelopment commission voted in favor of the allocation of American Recover Plan funds, excluding Irving Joshua who abstained from the vote because he sits on the New Albany Housing Authority board.