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4/17/03 - Miami Herald

Proposal calls for 961 housing units in Scott, Carver area

By Andrea Robinson

Hundreds of Liberty City residents who would be displaced by a controversial redevelopment project may get to stay in their neighborhood under a plan endorsed Wednesday by a county commission committee.

The proposal would earmark 961 new or existing homes for ownership, rental and public housing. More than 400 units would be where the James E. Scott and Carver housing projects now are and the rest would be nearby.

The number is nearly three times the 371 homes in the county's original plan. The proposal will go before the full commission on May 6, said Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, who sponsored the proposal and chaired the Economic Development Committee that supported it.

''My job is to make sure we have sufficient housing stock for those who want to come back to the area,'' Rolle said. ``I think we accomplished that today.''

Wednesday's meeting, attended by more than 150 residents and community activists, could be the first step in resolving a three-year battle between the county and Scott/Carver residents, who say many of them would not benefit after the housing projects are razed and rebuilt. Some residents have temporarily halted the redevelopment project by filing a federal lawsuit to force the county to redraw the plan.

Residents and activists said Wednesday that while they were not completely satisfied, they believed the county finally had made a good-faith effort to address their concerns.

''All we've been asking is for the county to revise the plan,'' said Billy Hardemon, chairman of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Agency.

The controversy began in 1999, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Miami-Dade Housing Agency $35 million to jump-start the project.

The goal of HOPE VI is to bring radical change to urban neighborhoods with single-family homes and town homes replacing public housing across the landscape. Several communities around the United States have undergone similar deconstructions, though many of those projects have not been as contentious as Miami's.

HUD has increasingly supported the concept as it moves away from subsidizing public housing projects. Several Scott/Carver tenants have used relocation services from the HOPE VI program to rent or purchase homes, but they are usually miles away from the Liberty City neighborhood.

Critics contend that the redevelopment is a ruse for moving out poor blacks in favor of middle-class homeowners.