Efforts to add Ike-damaged public housing causes conflict

May 10, 2012 4:11:31 PM PDT
It's been four years since Hurricane Ike tore into Galveston Island and the Texas Gulf Coast. But efforts to rebuild some of the island's public housing and low-income residences are causing some conflict.

The debate is over rebuilding public housing on the island. The city is moving forward with a plan, but a lot of folks who live there say it's a waste of money and they don't want it.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike slammed the Gulf Coast, devastating Galveston Island. It forced thousands from their homes, including Rosalyn Jackson.

"I would do anything to come back," Jackson said.

After Hurricane Ike, Jackson, who lived in public housing, got a housing voucher, but says she had to move off the island to use it.

"We couldn't stay here because most of the houses were too high for our vouchers, so we had to move further. So what I did, I had to move to Hitchcock and my voucher covered over there. But I do wanna come home," she said.

In all, Ike destroyed more than 560 public housing units. But the Galveston Housing Authority's plan to build new replacement units is coming under fire.

"We have 7,000 houses that are vacant. So why are we creating more units when we have ample housing that we can refurbish and put people into place?" said Marie Robb, who opposes the project.

Under the plan, which was just submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the General Land Office, the new public housing would include a cluster of 718 replacement units. They'd be labeled mixed income at an estimated cost of at least tens of millions of dollars, depending on private equity, plus how much the state and fed governments chip in.

"It's just a waste of your tax dollar and my tax dollar," said Fredell Rosen, who opposes the project.

But to Jackson, it's money well spent if it means she and her family can return home, to the only place she's ever known.

"I'm from the projects. And I think if they build something up nice for us, I would love to come back into them," she said.

The city was due to have a news conference Thursday morning to announce more about this new housing plan, but that meeting was canceled, and a lot of people say they're frustrated by it.


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