Tuesday, February 15, 2000

City Heights residents fear it will be razed

Covington execs say it's just idea

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — While the idea of redeveloping City Heights' hilltop site recently surfaced in a city document, there is no plan to raze the public housing complex and relocate residents, Covington staff and officials told worried residents Monday.

        “For many, many years, the idea of developing this site and getting some kind of a federal grant has been talked about by many, many people,” said Covington City Commissioner J.T. Spence, who also sits on the board for the Housing Authority of Covington.

Talk but no action
        “The truth of the matter is, yes, the idea's been discussed; but it's nowhere near happening. The reality of the matter is, nothing's going to happen here at City Heights, Jacob Price or Latonia Terrace (public housing projects) without your being involved.”

        Mr. Spence was among Covington officials and staff fielding questions about City Heights' future from some of the 30 residents at Monday's meeting of the City Heights Residents Council.

        The suggestion that the city explore applying for a federal HOPE VI grant to replace the City Heights complex, and integrate its residents into renovated housing throughout the city, was among dozens of ideas included in the city administration's work plan for the current year, Covington City Manager Greg Jarvis said Monday.

Residents upset
        That work plan was presented to city commissioners at their annual retreat last month, but there was no discussion of the City Heights' proposal, Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Spence said.

        However, many at Monday's meeting said they were upset to read last week that the city was even considering the possibility.

        “It was a shock to me,” said Mary Commodore, president of the City Heights Residents Council and a 22-year resident of the housing project where 1,000 to 1,200 people live. “It's a shame you have to open up the paper to see that somewhere along the line you're going to lose your home.”

        Mr. Jarvis said the issue of applying for HOPE VI funds was “in the idea stage,” and was mentioned in the city administration's annual work plan to see what the possibilities were.

Other voices
        Bill Simon, executive director of the Housing Authority of Covington, and Tony Milburn, a member of the board of the Housing Authority of Covington and a candidate for Covington City Commission, said the issue had not come before the housing authority, and was not mentioned in its five-year plan made public a couple of weeks ago.

        But while Mr. Simon said he was caught by surprise by the City Heights proposal, he told residents he knew of no developer waiting to develop the site.

Newport plan
        Last fall, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rejected the Newport Housing Authority's application for a $32 million HOPE VI grant to relocate residents in 202 units of public housing bordering the Licking and Ohio Rivers.

        The Newport Housing Authority plans to reapply for a grant, but is waiting to see how much money is available.


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