July 28, 2013

Housing authority to tear down damaged units

Charles Oliver

— The Dalton Housing Authority has received funding to demolish an apartment building on Underwood Circle that was damaged by fire four years ago. That will be the first step in tearing down 75 units and beginning to replace the authority’s aging housing stock with new low-income housing.

The city of Dalton has agreed to provide $141,582 in federal community development block grant money for the demolition.

“What we plan to do is to get bids on the work (all 75 units) and see how much it will cost and what would be the most economical way to do it,” said housing authority Chairman Alan Jewell. “We will probably do it in two or maybe three stages.”

An explosion and fire ripped through the Underwood Circle building in August 2009. Jeffrey Chad Nations and his mother Martha Sue Nations later died from injuries sustained in the fire. Officials ruled the fire an accident “caused by a human act of an undetermined nature.”

The units on Underwood Circle are more than 50 years old, and Jewell says that for the past few years as they have become vacant the housing authority has not been moving new tenants in. Currently, only 31 of the units are occupied.

Jewell said that if the demolition proceeds before those final tenants leave, the housing authority will move them into other units it owns.

“We certainly want to do what’s right for them, and we will have meetings with them to keep them informed and find out what they want to do,” he said.

Jewell said he expects the project will be put out for bids this fall.

The destruction of the units on Underwood Circle is part of the housing authority’s long-term plans to replace its aging building stock, which is decades old, and build new low-income housing.

“We are communicating with HUD (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) and DCA (the Georgia Department of Community Affairs) to see what the needs are in this community. The needs will determine what they will fund,” Jewell said. “For instance, we know there’s a need for more senior housing. So that might be part of what the rebuild picture will look like.”

It has been 20 years or more since the housing authority worked with HUD. Jewell said board members want the housing authority to become more active, to start doing business with state and federal agencies again, and to tear down some of its aging units and build new ones.

He says they will need to partner with other developers or agencies, at least at first, that have more experience in building low-income housing.

“When you build housing, you can’t plan in terms of years. You have to think in generations. The units we are planning to demolish were built in the ’50s,” he said.