Like Many in Wake County, Forest Hills Residents Face Wrenching Search for Affordable Housing | News

Like Many in Wake County, Forest Hills Residents Face Wrenching Search for Affordable Housing

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As developers announce high-rent, mixed-use towers in downtown Raleigh seemingly daily, residents getting the boot from Forest Hills Apartments in Garner are having a rough time finding an affordable place to live, even with help from federal and local housing officials.

A group of about thirty met Tuesday with representatives of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Wake County Housing Authority. They heard that HUD had approved vouchers for the vacating residents last week. All residents had to do was show up for another meeting, at nine a.m. next Tuesday in the housing authority offices in Zebulon, about a forty-five-minute drive away.

“If I get halfway there and break down, or you going to come to get us?” asked Forest Hills resident Joyce Mosley, who said her car was in bad shape.

The often complicated requirements for getting help and the stressful search for affordable housing are common coin for low-income people in Wake County. Amid a booming economy and high-end growth, more than one hundred thousand households are described as “cost-burdened,” or paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

The situation in Forest Hills, where most pay subsidized rents, gained media and official attention when a group of residents appeared before the Wake County Board of Commissioners in March. They went to protest the short notice they’d gotten to vacate, some after having lived in the conveniently located complex just off Highway 70 for decades.

“If we had been given sufficient time, this would not have been an issue,” resident Yolanda Smith said.

The commissioners worked with Chapel Hill developer Daniel Eller to give residents additional time, in some cases to let children finish their school years without moving. But what had been billed as an agreement to let them continue paying subsidized rent emerged instead as a period during which no rent would be accepted, opening residents up for eviction proceedings.

Some of the resulting costs will come out of taxpayers’ pockets. At Monday’s meeting at the Wake County Public Library branch in Garner, the residents heard from a HUD contractor that they’d be eligible for $100 in expense money while looking for new homes, as well as $200 for miscellaneous items such as buying school uniforms if a child’s new school required it.

In addition, HUD would pay as much as $1,200 for residents who were able to move their own belongings to a new apartment. The federal agency would reimburse a moving company for those who couldn’t handle the move on their own. (Officials also said they’d try to find help for those who found the required trip to Zebulon too hard to handle.)

Other residents, including Yvette Miller, said they faced health problems that had grown worse because of the uncertainty about whether they could find new homes before a June 15 deadline. That was set by the developer, who wants to renovate the 130-unit complex and stop accepting subsidized rents there.

“I got to sit in pain because I got no place to go,” Miller said.

After the meeting, she explained that she had undergone the first half of of a two-part procedure on her shoulder joints on March 15. When she came home to Forest Hills from surgery, she, like other residents, found a notice on her door telling her that she had to leave or start paying market rent by April 30. Now she’s having a hard time scheduling the second part of her surgery because doctors want to know that she’ll have a stable place to recuperate.

Said Joyce Mosley, the resident who doubted her car would make it to Zebulon: “All I want is to get my life back to normal before I stroke out.”

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