Among the myriad problems associated with public housing is image.
As in stereotypes.
As if those living in heavily subsidized — or free — housing, where curb appeal is non-existent and drug-related crime pervasive, somehow deserve to be there. As in being part of the problem.
Which brings us to recent happenings in East Tampa, where “distressed” — a bureaucratic euphemism for decrepit — public housing units have been razed and replaced by attractive, mixed-income housing. The architecture of the new “Belmont Heights Estates” is not neo-barrack. These 860 rental units — subsidized as well as market-rate — and 36 owner-occupied homes are not the “projects.”
It’s all part of the city’s $32.5-million federal HOPE VI grant to help revitalize a blighted area.
Arguably enough, the folks most in need of such housing upgrades are those who used to live there, back when it was the “distressed” College Hill and Ponce de Leon complexes. Notably enough, however, most of those former residents will not be moving back in.
That’s because standards for readmission are higher now than they used to be when the Tampa Housing Authority was running things. And there’s a pretty good, non-bureaucratic, non-entitlement reason. Tanya Street, property manager for Interstate Realty, the company that will oversee Belmont Heights Estates, explained. Bluntly.
“If we let everybody back in, then we’re just going to have what we had before,” she told a reporter. For good measure, Street added: “They don’t have to be brain surgeons, they just have to have a little bit of desire to make their lives better and stick to it.”
As in some things you can’t subsidize.