Saturday, March 15, 2003

Residents sue to halt razing

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

English Woods residents sued in federal court Friday to stop demolition of their low-income housing project.

The lawsuit accuses officials at the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority of deliberately reducing occupancy and maintenance at English Woods so they could justify closing the 700-unit complex.

The suit also claims racial discrimination because about 95 percent of residents there are African-American.

"We have nowhere else to go," said Marcia Battle, vice president of the English Woods Resident Community Council. "We think you should improve the lives of the people who live in this community instead of just moving people out."

In the lawsuit, the community council asks U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith to issue an injunction that would block CMHA's plans to close and then demolish English Woods.

The residents also want the judge to order CMHA to resume rentals and regular maintenance on all units.

"We think this is good, basic housing," said John Schrider, the community council's lawyer.

CMHA officials could not be reached for comment Friday, but they have argued for months that English Woods is obsolete and unsafe. They say repairs could cost as much as $130,000 per unit.

The residents, however, say CMHA has intentionally allowed conditions in English Woods to deteriorate so it could replace the complex with a new mixed-income neighborhood. They say CMHA's own estimates in 1999 found that renovation would cost only about $19,000 per unit.

CMHA officials have said they are considering a mixed-income replacement for English Woods but have no firm plans to build such a complex.

City officials and neighborhood leaders have opposed the closure.

CMHA's demolition plans will soon go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval. If granted, English Woods residents could be relocated before the end of the year.


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