Durham Promises $1.4 Million To Help McDougald Terrace

Feb 21, 2020

Electrical workers brave the cold February 20, 2020 at McDougald Terrace public housing in Durham. Residents will not be able to return until inspections are complete.
Credit Leoneda Inge

The City of Durham has promised to give the Durham Housing Authority more than $1 million to help make repairs at its oldest public housing community - McDougald Terrace. Hundreds of residents have been displaced for more than a month since a carbon monoxide scare, causing some people to get sick.

During Thursday's work session, city leaders agreed to give the housing authority $1.4 million to replace old gas stoves. Some stoves have been in the apartments since the complex opened in the 1950s. The specifics of the funding plan will be worked out at an upcoming budget retreat.

News of another monetary gift for McDougald Terrace was also announced Thursday. First Horizon Foundation said it will grant $100,000 to support daily operations at the community.

"A grant like this allows us to provide services for relocated residents such as childcare and youth activities, as well as provide support for residents when they return home," said Anthony Scott, CEO of the Durham Housing Authority, in a statement.

McDougald Terrace residents have been critical of how long it has taken Durham city and county to address their complaints about poor living conditions and hazards at the complex of more than 300 units.  The city reports it could cost more than $5 million to make repairs and cover the cost of evacuating residents.

This week was supposed to be a big move-in week for displaced McDougald residents, but Thurday's wintry weather slowed down the process.

Eight families moved back in to their apartments last week and nearly 25 families were set to return this week. But residents' council president Ashley Cannady says that won't happen. She says a return in the wet wintry weather was too risky.

"We actually have a transportation agency that picks them up and we really don't want him to put his vehicles and his workers and stuff in jeopardy, or the residents in jeopardy trying to get them home in the snow," said Cannady. 

Cannady and a group of volunteers spend much of their time assembling care packages to take to neighbors still living in hotels.

Before Thursday's snow and ice, several maintenance and electrical company workers were braving the falling temperatures to get as much done as possible. One reason it is taking longer than expected to make repairs and renovations is because of required inspections.

"Every unit is being inspected by the city and county Building Inspections Department, and approved," said Cal Newman, spokesman for the Durham Housing Authority. "Then inspections by Neighborhood Improvement Services for compliance with the city building code."

Meanwhile, some residents have complained about burglaries and vandalism while they have been away from their homes. Newman says police reports show three break-ins and two attempted break-ins and encourages residents to report all incidents of crime.