The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has extended the deadline to apply for physical disaster damages in North Carolina. Businesses and individuals with physical damages caused by Hurricane Florence on Sept. 7 – 29, 2018, should apply for SBA low-interest disaster loans before the Dec. 13,
The disaster declaration covers the North Carolina counties of Anson, Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Chatham, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Durham, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Orange, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Union, Wayne and Wilson; for economic injury only in the contiguous North Carolina counties of Alamance, Cabarrus, Caswell, Dare, Davidson, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Granville, Martin, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Nash, Person, Randolph, Rockingham, Stanly, Stokes, Tyrrell, Wake and Washington; and the contiguous South Carolina counties of Chesterfield, Dillon, Horry, Lancaster and Marlboro.
SBA disaster loans are available to businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters to cover uninsured losses from the disaster. Interest rates are as low as 3.675 percent for businesses, 2.5 percent for private nonprofit organizations, and 2.0 percent for homeowners and renters. Loan terms can be up to 30 years.
Economic injury disaster loans are also available to provide disaster related working capital to small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred.
Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoan.sba.gov.
To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, applicants should register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or download the FEMA mobile app. If online or mobile access is unavailable, applicants should call the FEMA toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services should call 800-621-3362.
Additional details on the locations of Disaster Recovery Centers and the loan application process can be obtained by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Dec. 13, 2018. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 14, 2019.
The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.
Homeowners who have been impacted by Hurricane Florence have a valid “Natural Disaster” hardship.
Due to this hardship, there may be viable relief options available to homeowners from their mortgage companies, but homeowners may have no idea what is available and how to accomplish securing mortgage relief.
A two hour presentation for homeowners with a mortgage loan will cover the following:
First Hour (55 Minutes)
What Constitutes Disaster? C. Who Is Covered?
What Can Be Done?
Second Hour (55 Minutes)
What Documents Are Needed?
Where to Send Financial Packages?
What Is The Process?
How Long Should It Take?
What If Things Go Wrong?
Attendees will receive additional resources via email. Both the morning and afternoon sessions are the exact same information.
The same event twice is offered twice:
Saturday, Nov. 3, Garber Methodist Church, 4201 Country Club Road, Trent Woods.
Morning Session 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Check-in and seating beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Afternoon Session 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Check-in and seating beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Seating is Limited – Register via Eventbrite or call 252-474-8288
Homeowners with a mortgage who have damaged homes and/or are displaced from their homes may be eligible for mortgage relief.
● This will not help renters.
● This will not help homeowners who own their home outright.
● The focus is on primary & secondary residences. This will not be a session for owners of
investment properties who need mortgage relief on investment properties.
Homeowners who have had a loss and/or interruption in employment because of the hurricane may be eligible for mortgage relief.
● Employer experienced damage during the hurricane and may be closed for repairs and/or closed permanently.
● Agricultural loss of crop, harvest and/or livestock from the hurricane.
● Self employed and/or work from home and unable to work because of home damage.
Who do you know that needs mortgage relief?
● Up to one year with no mortgage payments
● No late fees
● No delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus
● The ability to negotiate how to catch up on payments without making a balloon payment.
Types of available assistance:
Moratorium: legal authorization to delay payment of money due or to suspend an activity.
This workout option is typically used for disaster.
Repayment: the most common relief is a repayment plan. This is a written agreement that allows the homeowner to bring the loan current within a given period of time by making scheduled payments toward the delinquent amount in addition to regular monthly payments.
Forbearance: the mortgage servicer, insurer and investor agree to delay foreclosure or other legal action in return for the homeowner’s promise to pay the debt by a specific date.
Modification: written agreement permanently changing one or more of the original terms of the mortgage note: type, rate, term or capitalize delinquency.
Julia Iden, Guest Speaker
Julia Iden is the founding partner of Advance Mortgage Education Incorporated.
She started working in the mortgage industry in 1987. Her career has mainly revolved around defaulted mortgages and helping limit the losses caused by default. She held positions as a claims auditor, loss mitigation negotiator, and corporate default manager for GE Mortgage Insurance Company. Prior to starting Advance Mortgage Education, Iden worked as the loss mitigation consultant for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, one of the largest mortgage investors in the country. She spent three years on-site in Washington Mutual’s loss mitigation department managing the Freddie Mac delinquent portfolio.
Despite earlier obstacles, a storm-stricken New Bern Housing Authority appears headed toward buying acreage off of Carolina Avenue to build apartments that would replace flood-prone tenements at Trent Court.
City Manager Mark Stephens and his staff are preparing paperwork to sell 8 acres between the Pembroke community and Trent Road, and U.S. 70 and Carolina Avenue. A decision is expected at the next Board of Aldermen meeting later this month.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, New Bern resident Kathy Adolph, a retired teacher and school principal, urged the city to give the Housing Authority the parcel, saying that Trent Court is substandard and prone to frequent flooding.
The Housing Authority, which is independent of the city, wants to build an 80-unit apartment complex off Carolina Avenue that would house some Trent Court residents. That would empty out 80 units in Trent Court that would be razed and replaced.
The Housing Authority had offered $200,000 for the 8-acre parcel. Aldermen voted 6-1 in July to have the parcel appraised.
The Carolina Avenue property sought for purchase by the New Bern Housing Authority is shown boxed in yellow. The Pembroke Community is above and to the right of the lake shown in this aerial view.
The motion was made by Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham and seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Aster. What’s interesting was that it was a break from tradition. Motions are usually made by the alderman in whose ward a project is located.
But Ward 2 Alderwoman Jameesha Harris, whose ward includes the Pembroke community, has opposed the plan.
A lot has happened while the appraisal wound its way through city bureaucracy, namely Hurricane Florence.
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney gave a bleak report about Trent Court during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Blaney said Trent Court lost 108 out of 218 apartments due to the storm. He said five or six of the most severely damaged buildings should not be reopened. The storm also destroyed the New Bern Housing Authority administration building on South Front Street.
Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Joseph Anderson, left, and Executive Director Martin Blaney update the New Bern Board of Aldermen about Trent Court flooding. Photo by Randy Foster / New Bern Post
New Bern Towers, located near Trent Court and also owned by the Housing Authority, weathered the hurricane fairly well and will not be replaced.
In order to qualify for competitive funding to help pay for the apartment complex, the Housing Authority has to beat a January deadline to have a fully fleshed-out plan in place.
The ultimate plan is to remove most or all of the old Trent Court tenements and replace them with a combination of green space and mixed-income housing that is less susceptible to flood damage. That housing would be managed by a third party, much like Craven Terrace has been operating for a couple of years.
Most residents of the flood-damaged Trent Court apartment buildings have found temporary housing or have moved to Housing Authority facilities in nearby counties, Blaney said. A couple of Trent Court families are staying at the emergency shelter at West New Bern Recreation Center, while a handful have moved back into Trent Court, despite warnings that doing so puts their health at risk.
Meanwhile, in an effort to address housing shortages in flood-stricken communities like New Bern, FEMA has announced plans to roll out temporary housing for those most in need.
Approved counties: Currently nine North Carolina counties are approved for Direct Housing: Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Onslow, Pender and Robeson.
FEMA understands that rental resources and housing are limited in some areas. FEMA is working closely with the State of North Carolina to implement a targeted strategy to provide other forms of temporary housing to best meet the needs of displaced survivors.
FEMA has been participating in the state-led housing task force since Hurricane Florence first made landfall in North Carolina.
The state and FEMA are implementing a multi-pronged approach to temporarily house displaced survivors. Solutions are tailored to the individual needs and situations of survivors based on how quickly their homes can be repaired to a safe, sanitary, secure condition and the availability of housing options in their communities.
Based upon the needs identified by the State of North Carolina, FEMA is providing two forms of Direct Temporary Housing Assistance. The following Transportable Temporary Housing Units are available:
Recreation Vehicles (RVs) provide a timely, effective interim solution for most households with a high degree of confidence that repairs can be completed in less than a year, ideally within six months.
Manufactured Housing Units (MHUs) provide a longer-term solution for survivors whose repairs will take longer to complete due to higher degree of damage.
FEMA contacts households who potentially qualify for an RV or MHU through the Pre-Placement Interview process to determine whether they need Direct Housing and, if so, what type of housing they require based on the size and needs of the household, including any people with disabilities or other access or functional needs.
FEMA will identify households that may be able to have an RV or MHU placed on their property or in a commercial park.
Direct housing solutions FEMA implements are temporary in nature and are not permanent dwellings.
During a housing mission, federal contractors are managed and monitored by FEMA inspectors. Contractors must adhere to all applicable laws, codes and requirements.
Continuous coordination among FEMA, the state, counties and municipalities regarding the installation of transportable temporary housing units is a vital part of this mission.
The state and FEMA are coordinating with municipalities and counties regarding the requirements of local ordinances, zoning, transportation requirements, occupancy inspections, setbacks and more.
The state and FEMA are also coordinating the temporary housing effort with floodplain managers, environmental regulators, historic preservation officers, utility providers and other authorities identified by the state or municipalities.
The State of North Carolina and FEMA will be implementing additional programs in the coming days and weeks.
Survivors displaced from their homes due to Hurricane Florence must first apply for disaster assistance to be considered for FEMA programs such as Transitional Sheltering Assistance, financial rental assistance, grants for repairs to make their homes safe, sanitary and secure, and other forms of assistance.
Survivors can apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621- 3362 (voice, 711 or VRS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY). In-person American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are available by request by calling or texting 202-655-8824. (If possible, please allow 24 hours to schedule an interpreter).
Tune in to Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, when officials with the New Bern Housing Authority will give an update about the status of Trent Court.
Trent Court was hit hard by Hurricane Florence. Alderwoman Jameesha Harris and several other volunteers braved rising floodwaters to evacuate residents who had sheltered in their homes during the storm.
Several feet of water flooded the rows of apartments closest to Lawson Creek, and recovery has been a question, especially considering what has been said in the past about Trent Court’s future.
The Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) plan calls for Trent Court to be razed and replaced with mixed-income housing and green space.
The New Bern Housing Authority has been shopping for acreage to build a new apartment building that would be used to house displaced Trent Court residents during the transition, and Housing Authority officials said the displaced residents would have the opportunity to move back once newly constructed units become available in the future development formerly known as Trent Court.
However, the Housing Authority has been having difficulty finding suitable land for an offsite apartment complex. One location off Carolina Avenue (which is between Trent Road and the Pembroke community) is attractive — located close to shopping and services and is owned by the city — but Alderwoman Harris has raised objections from Pembroke residents who don’t want Trent Court residents to move into their back yard.
Meanwhile, many Trent Court residents don’t want to leave Trent Court.
Next up, however, is Hurricane Florence. Housing Authority officials have said for several years that no more money would be spent to renovate flood-damaged buildings at Trent Court. If that’s the same story now, the race is on to find affected Trent Court residents places to live so that the storm-damaged apartments can be torn down.
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney did not answer a request to be interviewed by the Post. Granted, he has had a lot on his plate.
Steve Strickland, a member of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, said, “The exact outcome is still to be determined. We’re working every possible option right now, alongside our efforts to get the current places as habitable as possible as soon as possible for those with no other short-term options.”
When asked if the storm was an opportunity to kickstart the CNI plan by housing South Front Street / Walt Bellamy Drive residents elsewhere so that the buildings most damaged can be razed and replaced, Strickland replied, “Possibly.”
LONGLEAF POLITICS | Hurricane Matthew struck eastern North Carolina on Oct. 9, 2016.
A full 18 months later, some of the first federally funded repairs are slated to begin this June.
Hurricane Matthew has re-emerged as a political issue in Raleigh as thousands of people in eastern North Carolina await public money to rebuild.
The storm was one of the most devastating in North Carolina’s history, killing 31 people and caused more than $4.8 billion in damage. Matthew set rainfall records in 17 counties, and 2,300 people were rescued from floodwaters.
Why is recovery taking so long?
It mostly has to do with the processes set up to distribute the roughly $1.7 billion in recovery aid expected from the federal and state government.
While the initial response from the N.C. National Guard and FEMA came quickly, North Carolina has been in no hurry to distribute money intended for longer-term recovery.
And as it turns out, there’s a huge difference between money that’s been approved — and money that’s actually been used.
The breakdown of funding sources is an alphabet soup of agencies, each with its own policies and mechanisms and hoops to jump through. State governments have incentives to get roads repaired quickly. Homes, not so much.
Here’s a quick explanation of how disaster recovery works. It’s ordered by how quickly money has been distributed.
FEMA has opened a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) at the old Eckerd/Rite Aid store located at 710 DeGraffenreid Ave. in New Bern. The DRC serves as a one-stop location for citizens affected by Hurricane Florence to apply for disaster assistance and other benefits available to them through support agencies. Valuable state, local and federal resources will be provided at the DRC which will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning Thursday, Sept. 27, until FEMA determines the community needs have been met.
Online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov
Call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 1-800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 1-800-462-7585
Download FEMA’s mobile app
4. Visit the Disaster Recovery Center
Registering with FEMA is required for federal aid, even if you have registered with another disaster-relief organization such as the American Red Cross, or local community or church organization.
For more information Craven County’s Hurricane Florence recovery efforts, visit the Craven County website at www.cravencountync.gov, on the Craven County Facebook page @cravencounty and the Craven County Emergency Management Twitter account @cravencountync. Visit the Craven County website to register to receive emergency notifications via text, email and phone calls through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.
Map from Realtor.com identifying the most affordable retirement towns in the nation.
Realtor.com listed New Bern as the fourth least expensive retirement town in the nation.
With a median home list price of $209,800 and a share of residents aged 60 and up at 26.8 percent, New Bern ranked fourth after Sebring, Fla., Sierra Vista, Ariz., and Ocala, Fla.
“Not everyone wants to retire on the ocean, especially in the wake of last year’s devastating Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” the website said. “For the well-known town of New Bern, located along Neuse River, this has actually worked to its advantage.
“‘People are scared of hurricanes and don’t want to be on the beach,’ says Steve Tyson, a broker in New Bern. New Bern is close enough for a day trip to the shore, but just far enough away for when storms roll through. And retirees like that New Bern isn’t packed with tourists either, despite its historical chops. (Fun fact: This is the original state capital of North Carolina, not Raleigh.)
“Folks here are pleasantly surprised to learn that their 2,500-square-foot home will have a property tax bill of only around $2,500—a bargain compared with what they were paying up north.
“In addition to all the outdoorsy opportunities, many boomers are lured to the area by the commercial airport in town. The Coastal Regional Airport has direct flights to Atlanta and Charlotte—something many small retirement towns can’t say.”
The most expensive retirement town? San Luis Obispo, Calif., where a median home list price is $729,600.
No one disputes the success of the 30-year transformation of Downtown New Bern from a run-down blighted mess, to the vibrant tourist attraction it has become.
One thing that made the transformation so successful is that it restored 19th and early 20th century buildings to their original glory.
Now, armed with a new redevelopment agency and a roadmap called the Greater Five Points Transformation Plan, the City of New Bern turns its attention to a collection of historically black neighborhoods collectively called “Greater Duffyfield.”
(Note: I put “Greater Duffyfield” in quotes, because historically, they were different neighborhoods, not the least of which is Dryborough. “Greater Duffyfield” was coined by City Hall as a way to group these neighborhoods together for planning and management purposes, although some would say there were more nefarious reasons.)
If you gather any number of people in a room and ask them to envision what “Greater Duffyfield” should look like 30 years from now, the number of answers will probably be close to the number of people in the room.
UNC-TV has been holding a series of community sessions in New Bern this week, including one at Riverfront Convention Center about New Bern’s future. Three stellar panels of New Bern leaders spoke during the five-hour session. By the end, they said almost nothing about the future.
So I thought I’d throw out one idea.
Instead of bulldozing “Greater Duffyfield” and replacing it with condominiums and strip malls, please, please, please respect its distinctive cultural heritage the way New Bern’s Main Street program respected downtown’s distinctive history.
The neighborhoods have already been added to New Bern’s overarching historic district, and for good reason.
West Street, for example, is chock full of historic sites from the days of segregation including a hospital, a school, a library, and the former home of none other than Grover C. Fields.
Dryborough, one of New Bern’s earliest subdivisions, was eventually to become a significant place in New Bern’s African American culture.
African American neighborhoods south of Queen Street were supplanted by first neglect and segregation, and than gentrification. They migrated north of Queen Street, which became the racial dividing line in Old New Bern. (Riverside, which used the railroad as its dividing line, remained a white-only neighborhood and likes to refer to itself as New Bern’s first suburb.)
As neighborhoods north of Queen Street became populated by African Americans, city planners and public works did what they usually did in the segregated South. Streets were narrow and it was a long time before they became paved. There were no sidewalks, curbs, or gutters. Street lights were rare. Much of the area was subject to flooding and remains so to this very day.
But these neighborhoods were self-supporting. They included a hospital, a nursing home, shopping districts, lawyers and doctors offices, a hotel, and a library. It even had its own fire department.
When segregation became illegal in the 1960s, African Americans could shop at places like J.C. Penny and Belk, and dine at previously all-white restaurants, at the expense of mom-and-pop businesses in the Five Points area and along Main Street in Duffyfield. When they called the fire department, white firefighters would respond. When they went to the hospital, they could go to the same hospital as white people. And they went to school at the same schools as white children.
Those African-American-owned businesses and institutions became the victims of unintended consequences and many went out of business. But their empty shells remain scattered throughout the neighborhoods.
While most of the streets today are paved, there remains a distinctive flavor to the neighborhoods that can be preserved and elevated.
I propose that efforts be made to preserve those houses and buildings that are worth preserving. For those beyond repair, replacements be subject to design standards so that they retain the distinctive nature of the neighborhoods.
I propose that the city identify neighborhood commercial zones such as Main Street and at Five Points, with redevelopment funding targeting the revitalization of these areas to highlight New Bern’s rich, vibrant, and significant African American history.
Great cities like New York and San Francisco have sections that celebrate different ethnicities. Look at Chinatown, Little Italy, Harlem, and so on. “Greater Duffyfield” could be one such neighborhood, one that celebrates history and culture rather than replacing it with townhouses and strip malls.
Many people aren’t aware of the important role that New Bern played in African American history. Following its fall to Union forces during the Civil War, it became a center of freedom for emancipated and escaped slaves.
New Bern needs to tell the world about this, and preserving its African American neighborhoods is one way to do it.
The city inched forward in a process that could lead to an 80-unit apartment complex off Carolina Avenue that would house some Trent Court residents to enable the New Bern Housing Authority to begin razing and replacing buildings in Trent Court.
The Housing Authority has offered $200,000 for an 8-acre parcel off Carolina Avenue, which is off Trent Road.
The Carolina Avenue property sought for purchase by the New Bern Housing Authority is shown boxed in yellow. The Pembroke Community is above and to the right of the lake shown in this aerial view.
Aldermen voted 6-1 to have the parcel appraised, a non-committal way of keeping the concept alive without actually approving it. Baby steps … baby steps.
The motion was made by Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham and seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Aster. What’s interesting about that is its break from tradition. Often a motion is made by the alderman in whose ward a project is located.
Carolina Avenue is in Alderwoman Jameesha Harris’s Ward 2, but Harris has opposed the proposed property sale and building project, echoing strong opposition from residents of the nearby Pembroke neighborhood.
Pembroke residents have opposed the idea of Trent Court residents moving near their community, fearing that doing so would bring Trent Court problems to Pembroke.
The Carolina Avenue is near Pembroke, although there is no direct access between the two locations.
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney, left, and Housing Authority Board Member Joseph Anderson speak to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. Randy Foster/Post
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney in a previous interview with the Post said there had been a lengthy search for a property suitable for a 80-unit apartment complex that would qualify for low income tax credits. The credits are awarded competitively, once a year. Higher scores go to projects that are close to shopping, far from microwave transmitters and railroad tracks, as well as several other factors.
The project must also fit the Housing Authority’s budget.
A search of the New Bern area turned up no suitable leads until it stumbled across the Carolina Avenue property, which is owned by the city. It scored highly on all the requirements, so Blaney approached the city to inquire about a sale.
That’s where Harris entered the picture, along with residents of the Pembroke Community. Following several community meetings in Pembroke, representatives appeared before the Board of Aldermen during the early July meeting to oppose the Carolina Avenue project.
Harris has been outspoken about the proposal, previously calling it “gentrification. Although she opposed even an appraisal of the property, she was less vigorous in her opposition during Tuesday’s meeting.
But if anyone was waiting for her to make any motion that would move the process forward, they were in for a long wait. That’s when Odham stepped in, making the motion for the appraisal.
The plan to raze and replace Trent Court is part of a larger Greater Five Points Transformation Plan that was released in 2016. Recommendations in the plan have already been implemented in the Craven Terrace neighborhood, which is also a Housing Authority project.
Many of Trent Court’s pre- and post-World War II buildings are located in a Lawson Creek flood zone. No more money will be put into repairing the buildings the next time flooding occurs, thus the Housing Authority is under the gun to move forward with the plan.
The plan calls for replacing dilapidated buildings and replacing them with townhouse-style apartments catering to mixed income levels. Areas directly in the flood zone would be turned into parkland and open space.
A representative of the development company that won the contract to rebuild Trent Court listens to Tuesday’s discussion about Carolina Avenue. Randy Foster/Post
The City of New Bern is teaming up with Habitat for Humanity of Craven County and Garris Evans for the third year of Paint Your Heart Out New Bern!
Paint Your Heart Out New Bern is an annual volunteer-based program where local private and public partners provide free painting and cosmetic repairs to low-moderate income, elderly, and disabled homeowners within the community. Eligibility requirements for homeowners are listed below.
Own and live in the home as primary residence
Be physically or financially unable to complete the work
Homes selected must be located within New Bern City limits
The home must be in NEED of repair to improve its appearance
If your home is selected someone from your household or an authorized representative must be present while work is being done. Work is scheduled for the week of June 11-16.
For more information about applying for help or volunteering, contact Deedra Durocher, Habitat for Humanity, at 252-633-9599 or Landa Gaskins, City of New Bern Development Services, at 252-639-7586.
A group spearheaded by Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Pastor Robert and retired chemist Anne Schout is taking the initiative to fix problems in the Duffyfield neighborhood of New Bern.
The group is called Duffyfield Phoenix Project, and it plans to lead a wide range of projects in Duffyfield, including:
Assessment of Duffyfield’s properties, their conditions and their owners. Determine which properties need upgrade or repair, whether owners want or need assistance, and which properties could be razed.
Obtain grants for infrastructure and housing improvements.
Improve the appearance of two cemeteries and apply for a grant to pay for a brick entrance to Evergreen Cemetery.
Reinter 13 African Americans whose remains were moved from Cedar Grove Cemetery to Evergreen Cemetery in 1913.
Education workshops for GED, basic finances, money management, credit repair, etc.
Establish a Farmers Market in Duffyfield.
Start and sponsor regular Duffyfield Clean Up events.
Request the city install public trash receptacles.
List all properties that are subject to flooding, and work with the city to find permanent solutions.
Clean up and enlarge the Duffyfield Canal to stop erosion and improve drainage.
Identify which streets in Duffyfield need repair or paving.
Work with the city to strengthen and enforce housing ordinances to encourage property owners to fix their properties.
Establish transportation, partnering with the city and county, to grocery stores, doctors and pharmacies.
Develop a program for housing subsidies for police, firefighters, and teachers to live in Duffyfield.
Close-up of a map inventorying properties in Duffyfield. The inventory identifies the type of property ownership, whether owner-occupied, rental, city-owned, or divided among heirs.
The group also wants to develop a plan for vacant, buildable lots by enlarging the scope of the Duffyfield Phoenix Project to include a community housing development organization that will focus on revitalization of Duffyfield and the surrounding area. The group hopes this would encourage new home construction.
Johnson and Schout met when Schout was running for Ward 1 alderman in the 2017 municipal elections. Schout noticed a huge need in the Duffyfield area while she was knocking on doors campaigning for office, while Johnson has worked on behalf of the poor and homeless in New Bern since 1980.
“When anyone walks the streets of Duffyfield, they see an area that is forgotten, neglected and in serious need of attention. What was once a thriving, vibrant community is suffering the effects of years of decline,” according to a presentation by the group.
Schout and Johnson formed the Phoenix Group and started recruiting board members in November 2017. The group is operating as a 501(c)3) under the aegis of the James City Historical Society.
On the board, Johnson is chairman and Schout is vice chairman and secretary.
Other members are Coleman “Sully” Sullivan (treasurer) and board members Robert Benjamin, Elijah Brown, Sharon Bryant, Grace Hudson, the Rev. Ethel Sampson, Jim Schout, Ben Watford, and John Young.
The group has already made a presentation to Duffyfield area residents. Anyone interested in learning more about the group can contact Anne Schout to schedule a presentation. Email her here.
Now that the Craven Terrace low-income housing project has been outsourced, downsized, and renovated, the New Bern Housing Authority is turning its sights on what to do about Trent Court.
In a memo to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (members listed here), Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney said the agency is going to apply for a 9 percent low-income housing tax credit from the N.C, Housing Finance Agency, but first must “secure site control of an eligible and competitive location.”
The “competitive location” would be used to build new low-income housing to add to, and in some cases replace, housing stocks in Trent Court.
As of now, that competitive location is a 30.8-acre, city-owned property off Carolina Avenue between the Pembroke Community, Trent Road and U.S. 70 (maps, left and below left).
The parcel is more than twice the 14 acres the Housing Authority owns that includes Trent Court, New Bern Tower, and numerous other residential structures, although, according to Housing Authority Commissioner Bill Frederick, only 9.7 acres are not subject to flooding and would be usable for housing.
Google Maps close-up shows the location of the Carolina Avenue property.
Little has been discussed publicly about the Housing Authority’s plans for Trent Court over the past seven years, while at the same time it was privatizing and renovating Craven Terrace, a larger housing project located north of Broad Street.
Craven Terrace was quickly identified as an area worth preserving for public housing, mainly because of its lack of market potential. Surrounded by small parcels with low property values, Craven Terrace is much larger than Trent Court and presented a bigger problem in terms of relocating residents there.
In the end, the Housing Authority secured historic status for the buildings in Craven Terrace, which in turn allowed for tax credits that helped pay for renovations, razing several buildings subject to flooding, and adding amenities including a playground and laundry facility. The Housing Authority also outsourced management of Craven Terrace.
Trent Court is less than half the size of Craven Terrace in acreage and number of residents. But more importantly, its proximity to Tryon Palace, the Historic Downtown District, and a navigable waterway make it much more commercially attractive for would-be developers.
The 30-acre Carolina Avenue property is wooded and undeveloped. It stretches from the lower left center to the upper right corner of this picture. Google Maps photo
Enter Carolina Avenue. The largest single undeveloped parcel owned by the city at more than 30 acres, it is not included on the city’s surplus properties for sale website. Wooded without any buildings, it is unique in New Bern in that it is both a waterfront property (there’s a small lake formed when N.C. DOT quarried dirt and gravel to build the U.S. 70 bypass) and has access to Trent Road.
Still, due to the wetlands, only a third is developable.
Housing Authority officials have been quietly approaching city officials, the Board of Aldermen, and the Pembroke Community about acquiring the Carolina Avenue property for subsidized and low-income housing.
“The NBHA bid was $200,000,” Commissioner Frederick told the Post.
“Initial discussions with the city were promising,” Blaney said in his memo. “However, more recent discussions have been frustrating with aldermen indicating they would be willing to ‘swap’ the Carolina Avenue site for complete control of the Trent Court property. This was not acceptable. Also, our offer to simply purchase the land was rejected before a bid could be submitted.”
When Blaney refers to promising initial discussions, he’s mainly referring to when E.T. Mitchell, a wealthy appointee to the Board of Aldermen who is now running for county commissioner, was on the board and heard the proposal. (Mitchell was also instrumental in developing and executing plans for Craven Terrace and was a Housing Authority commission member for a time.)
When Blaney refers to more recent frustrating discussions, he’s referring to Ward 2 Alderman Jameesha Harris, who has reservations about the plan and who called it “gentrification” in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Her ward includes the Pembroke community as well as the Carolina Avenue property the Housing Authority is interested in.
The plan has a lot of moving parts but boils down to this: The Housing Authority wants the Carolina Avenue property so it can secure funding to build affordable housing there. It would then move residents of Trent Court and others living on Housing Authority land in that area to the new housing off Carolina Avenue. That would enable the Housing Authority to raze many if not all of Trent Court’s buildings and replace them with a mixed-income residential development that it would still manage, either directly or indirectly.
It would involve moving low-income residents from Trent Court, ostensibly on a temporary basis, and moving them to housing to be constructed on Carolina Avenue adjacent to the Pembroke community. Once a new and improved Trent Court emerges, former residents would be given the opportunity to move back if housing is available.
“The proposal made to Ms. Harris was that the city donate the property to NBHA, freeing up our proposed $200,000 bid to rehabilitate the Taylor Building in Trent Court as a permanent home for the Boys & Girls Club,” Commissioner Frederick told the Post.
As it appears now, what would be built where Trent Court exists now would be a mix of high-, middle- and low-end housing and subsidized housing. The Housing Authority plans to leave a waterfront green space between Walt Bellamy Drive and Lawson Creek, and according to a source, that waterfront property is what the Housing Authority is willing to trade to the city for the Carolina Avenue acreage.
Trent Court and Carolina Avenue Compared
Trent Court area
30.81 undeveloped but mostly wetland
Tax value per acre
One problem with Trent Court is that the next time it floods in that area, affected buildings will have to be vacated and razed. No more money will be spent to bring them back to habitability. That puts a gun to the Housing Authority’s head to find substitute housing quickly.
“This is a complicated matter practically and politically,” Blaney said in his his memo. “Strategies such as improving Trent Court, seeking other land, approaching aldermen, public relations, etc., need to be devised.”
He said in his memo that he has spoken with three Pembroke residents about the proposal. “Two of the three indicated that my explanation was not exactly as an earlier one given by their alderman. They still expressed misgivings, however.
“I expect to be invited to the next Pembroke Residents’ Association meeting in early April. My belief is that if we disagree, at least let us disagree based on honest fact.”
Blaney has scheduled an interview with the Post on Tuesday morning to provide further information about this issue.
Facing opposition from Alderman Harris, proponents of the plan have attempted to sweeten the pot in an effort to gain her support, including promises for a new Boys & Girls Club location and public works improvements in her ward, she told the Post.
Harris, who represents the Pembroke Community as part of her ward, released Blaney’s memo on her alderman Facebook page on Thursday evening and explained her involvement in the plan.
“I was invited to a meeting to talk about the city possibly donating a very big plot of land that is located in my ward in Pembroke,” Harris said on her alderman Facebook page. “They also wanted us to pay the cost of demolition of some Trent Court Buildings and they would in return give the city some waterfront wetlands.
“It was stated that they wanted to relocate Trent Court Residents to the property they would build in Pembroke area but also give them a right to come back to the Trent Court area after they rebuild new homes and condos.”
Harris said she didn’t agree with the plan and said it sounded like a case of gentrification (although she also said she would support the deal if the Housing Authority paid full price for the Carolina Avenue property).
“Then I was asked to a second meeting but this time they added the Boys & Girls Club into to the mix,” Harris said. “Basically what I got out of the meeting is, we would help the Boys & Girls Club if the city once again provides the big plot of land in Pembroke. At this meeting, I personally made it clear that I am not in favor of any deal.
“I have never given misleading information,” she wrote, referring to Blaney’s memo describing his version of the plan as different from hers. “I never stated that the city wants control over the property and I simply stated that I would only vote yes if full price was offered for the land.
“I am doing the job that I was voted into office to do. I refuse to be a ‘Yes Man’! If I don’t like the idea and I ask my constituents about the idea and they don’t like it as well, then leave it alone.”
Commissioner Frederick said he was not aware of any request for the city to pay for any demolition in Trent Court, or any promises to pay for public works projects in her ward.