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 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.
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.