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4/17/05 - Sun Sentinel

Upscale Deerfield units planned
Demolition set for old housing in Tallman Pines

By Lisa J. Huriash

DEERFIELD BEACH · Dozens of townhouses and single-family homes meant for poor people will be bulldozed so a public housing authority can build upscale residences valued at about $250,000 each and targeted toward middle-income earners.

Officials at the Broward County Housing Authority say they are doing a favor to both the taxpayers at large and the 525 residents now living in the public housing development, where the average family earns $15,750 a year.

Rhonda Shelton, who works at an electronics store, has lived in the neighborhood for two years and is celebrating the demolition of her home. It means she and her four children will receive a subsidy to go somewhere else until brand-new low-income apartments are built. "They need to tear this place down," she said. "We have termites, water from upstairs leaks through the laundry room, spiders on the walls, no central air, no grass here. I want to go anywhere but here."

The public housing project is known as Schooler-Humphries Villas and is just west of Dixie Highway in the newly annexed Tallman Pines neighborhood. The 68 single-family homes and 44 townhouses -- all with two to four bedrooms -- are not in good condition, said Kevin Cregan, executive director of the Broward County Housing Authority.

None of the homes, which were built in 1975, has central air conditioning. Landscaping is bare. The roofs need fixing, the stucco needs repairing, the homes need painting and the windows need replacing. Mostly, the neighborhood is too costly to keep, Cregan said. Rehabbing it would be more expensive than tearing it down and starting over, he said.

Last year, the Housing Authority made revenues of only $7,225 in Schooler-Humphries because residents on average pay $200 a month rent. Cregan said the agency lost $177,000 last year among all of its 10 properties.

"They're not up to our standards and the [U.S. Department of] Housing & Urban Development doesn't give us enough money," Cregan said.

"We just don't get enough rent. Public housing is becoming a relic across the country because the federal government is not upholding its obligation to make this a break-even proposition."

The authority will tear down the houses and townhouses and build 38 houses at market-value rates, then build four more within the same neighborhood to be sold at an "affordable" price to low-income workers who qualify. To qualify, they have to meet income requirements of about $48,000 or less for a family of four.

Then, on the land where the townhouses are now, the authority will build 88 new rental units for low-income residents in late 2006. Another 112 apartment units will be built in 2007. That's a total of 88 more low-income units than there are now.

Cregan said the new houses would be back on the tax roll so Deerfield Beach can start collecting money. And he said the authority expects a deluge of calls from prospective buyers. The agency will be working with The Carlisle Group, a Miami-based affsmallordable housing developer, for the $26 million project, which he said will be funded by tax-exempt bonds, tax credits, a conventional bank loan and the sale of the single-family homes.

For the residents, all of whom will receive Section 8 vouchers to move somewhere else in January, change can't come fast enough. They'll have to find places they can afford. Section 8 rules require residents pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, and the authority will pay the rest, at a cap of $1,577 a month for a four-bedroom unit.

"I think it's good and it'll improve the neighborhood," said Janice Dumbar, who drives a school bus and has lived in her three-bedroom house for 10 years. Still, she said, she'll miss the place. "I've watched all the kids grow up. It's quiet here."

The mass redevelopment effort by the authority isn't limited to Deerfield Beach.

In the Liberia neighborhood in Hollywood, the authority will tear down 190 public housing apartments and replace them with 190 new rental apartments with a clubhouse and pool for low-income residents. There will also be six single-family homes, although it hasn't been decided whom they will be marketed toward. Demolition is scheduled for September.

The federal government understands that the housing authority needs to make changes, HUD spokeswoman Gloria Shanahan said.

"The houses are functionally obsolete," she said. "And if you're going to put into the market more rental units, the concept is good because you are going to be able to serve a larger population."

Saul Ramirez, the executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials in Washington, D.C., said housing authorities nationwide are finding it' cheaper to tear down and rebuild housing projects than to fight with HUD for rehabilitation money.

"There's a dwindling financial federal commitment and [housing authorities are] still trying to meet the demands," Ramirez said. "It's not that unusual for housing authorities around the country to demolish older complexes that have become much more difficult to maintain because of the increase in costs to maintain them."

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at or 954-572-2008.