Among the myriad problems associated with public housing is image. As in stereotypes. As if those living where curb appeal is non-existent and drug-related crime pervasive, somehow deserve to be there. As in being part of the problem — especially residents who represent a multi-generation pattern.
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 is not neo-barrack. Projects these are not. These are 860 rental units and 36 owner-occupied homes. 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 lived on the site when it was “distressed.” Notably enough, however, most of those former residents will not be moving in.
That’s because standards for readmission are higher than they were when the Tampa Housing Authority was running things. Tanya Street, property manager for Interstate Realty, the company that will oversee the new “Belmont Heights Estates,” explained. Bluntly.
“If we let everybody back in, then we’re just going to have what we had before,” she told the St. Petersburg Times . For good measure, she 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.”
Which says volumes. As in some things you can’t subsidize.