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3/8/03 - Miami Herald

Group seeks to save public housing
by Andrea Robinson

A new community coalition opposed to a massive redevelopment project in Liberty City has proposed its own plan, which would allow public housing tenants to stay in their old neighborhood once construction is completed.

This week, the group went to County Hall to urge Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and the commissioners to find ''the political will'' to pressure the county's housing agency to negotiate with them.

At issue is the federally funded HOPE VI project, which aims to transform two of the county's largest and most storied projects into a suburban oasis in the city.

The county wants to replace 850 barracks-style apartments in the James E. Scott and Carver projects with 371 single homes and town houses -- only 80 of which would be earmarked for public housing. In addition, the county proposes building another 150 homes -- for rent or purchase at market rate -- in the neighborhoods around Scott-Carver.

The Community Coalition to Fix HOPE VI on Thursday proposed replacing the 850 units with an equal number of subsidized homes that displaced Scott-Carver tenants could afford. That would include 120 houses at the renovated site, with the rest within a two-square-mile radius of the projects.

A group of low-income tenants hand-delivered copies to all 13 county commissioners and executives at the housing agency. A copy was delivered to Penelas' office, aides say, but the mayor was not there.

Sherra McLeod, housing agency spokeswoman, said officials had not reviewed the proposal and would not comment.

The Rev. Phillip Johns, chief aide to Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, whose district includes Scott-Carver, said the staff would review it as well.

''If any of their concerns have not been already addressed, we will be happy to sit with them and meet about it,'' Johns said.

Commissioner Sally Heyman, who was elected in November, said she wanted to hear more details.

''I haven't gotten the gist of what's logical versus what's emotional on the issue,'' she said.

Supporters of the county's plan argue that many residents don't want to return to that neighborhood. They said a number of former tenants have purchased or rented homes in neighborhoods such as Carol City and North Miami.

But HOPE VI's critics charge many Scott-Carver residents want to stay in the neighborhood, close to family, friends and other support systems.

But the plan -- which shrinks the stock of subsidized housing -- would price most project tenants out of the neighborhood.

''During an affordable housing crisis, the county should not reduce the number of affordable units,'' said Max Rameau, a coalition member.

County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler on Friday tabled action on an item related to the redevelopment until the coalition's proposal can be examined by the commission's economic development committee.

Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, president of the Miami ACLU and a coalition member, said she would address the plan before the commission.

''Those units are being billed as a solution to the shortage,'' Rodriguez Taseff said. ``It's a ruse, a fake.''