By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority on Thursday dropped its request for $14.9 million in city money to redevelop English Woods but will still pursue a controversial plan to demolish the aging, 700-unit complex.
Cincinnati's money was supposed to help pay for development of 338 new homes on the land offering sweeping downtown views. Now, the housing authority just wants to bulldoze the barracks-style buildings.
The decision comes even though City Council this week approved a motion urging housing authority officials to halt the project until the city and housing authority can figure out a plan that benefits both tenants and city neighborhoods.
CMHA Executive Director Donald Troendle said the housing is obsolete.
"I don't hear anyone out there saying English Woods is a solid, quality place to live," Mr. Troendle said. "The housing remains nonviable, and we have to relocate the tenants."
A plan to raze the complex and build new owner-occupied homes has been in the works for two years, but it's captured more attention in recent weeks after some tenants complained to the city. Residents of west-side neighborhoods protested that too much low-income housing is being dumped in their backyards, and they worry that displaced English Woods residents will use federal rent vouchers to move there.
Some City Council members concede that there's little they can do.
"We have no legal authority ... to stop him," David Crowley, a first-term councilman, said. "This was just an effort to put a moral argument into this."
Mr. Troendle said market forces are partly to blame for the demise of English Woods.
Only 460 of 700 apartments are occupied. English Woods' heating and air-conditioning systems are failing. It would cost more than $92 million to renovate.
The housing authority plans to halt new rentals there in about two months and relocate all families within one year. It also must apply for a demolition grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In all, Mr. Troendle doesn't expect the bulldozers to move in before late 2003.
About the only key document required from the city is a "letter of acknowledgement" as part of the HUD demolition grant application. The housing authority must keep Mr. Luken informed about its plans but doesn't need his approval, according to the grant application.
Displaced residents will have the option of moving to another 118 units that will remain at English Woods or other public housing complexes, such as a 500-unit renovated complex in nearby Millvale. Others will get Section 8 vouchers to rent from private landlords.
Westwood and Price Hill residents fear a repeat of the demolition of more than 2,000 apartments at Lincoln Court and Laurel Homes projects in West End.
West-side leaders say too many Section 8 families are in their neighborhoods, but the housing authority said fewer than 50 families moved to Westwood or Price Hill from Lincoln or Laurel.
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