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Tallahassee tenant association objects to redevelopment: “We’re not at the table”

By Zachary Schultz |
November 12, 2019
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Tenant association president and founder Oliver Hill, Sr. at his house in Orange
Tenant association president and founder Oliver Hill, Sr. at his house in Orange Avenue Apartments. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tallahassee, FL - Tallahassee’s public housing tenant association is claiming that plans to redevelop Orange Avenue Apartments, the largest public housing community in the city, will result in displacement and that those plans proceeded without resident participation.

“It’s going to be just like they did in Goodbread Hills. They let nobody back in. They give you a voucher and say you’ll be eligible when you get back in when the site is finished. Because they hire a developer to manage the complex, you are not going to get back in,” said Oliver Hill, Sr. president and founder of the Orange Avenue United Tenant Association Inc. (OAUTA).

“No family at Orange Avenue Apartments will be displaced,” said Brenda Williams, the executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority, responding to concerns about displacement in an interview with WTXL ABC 27. “What I can say to the residents here at Orange Avenue Apartments is to trust the process.”

Hill claims that this process has already been violated.

“They violated our agreement on the Memorandum of Understanding on participation,” said Hill. “They did not give us the option to participate in the development plan, to sit at the table with the politicians and everything. We’re not at the table.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the housing authority and tenant association this June, guaranteeing funding, resources and the right of participation in operations, including new developments. By September the agreement was broken and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was urging the housing authority to meet and negotiate a resolution, warning that no local resolution would result in HUD headquarters taking over the dispute.

“They disagree with the contract then they shut our funds off so then we can’t communicate with our residents,” said Hill. “I feel that the management found the opportunity to do this. The same time they are trying to do a development plan then they withhold the resident council funds.”

Under HUD regulations the tenant association is recognized as the resident council and a resident management corporation representing all public housing residents in Tallahassee. HUD provides a federal subsidy to housing authorities for the proper funding of resident councils. With funding the tenant association hopes to hire staff to educate residents on the redevelopment plans.

Lack of funding isn’t the only issue Hill has with the housing authority, “They go around and tell the residents not to participate, but they will deny that they are doing it.”

Hill says that he still believes an agreement can still be reached, but it will require the housing authority to come to the table. “Until this housing authority sits and negotiates a good development plan with the resident participants then I will personally object to the plan. The residents elected me as the president to represent them, to be the voice of the people, and I intend to do that in good faith.”