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If sold, not enough affordable housing in Covington to relocate displaced City Heights residents

Posted at 5:11 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 20:17:56-05

COVINGTON, Ky. — J.B. Burress has lived off-and-on in Covington's City Heights neighborhood with his kids for the last seven years. But, over the next three years, he and nearly 1,000 of his neighbors are on the brink of losing their homes, and it's unclear where -- if anywhere -- they'll have to move unless something changes.

Burress, who also heads up the City Heights Community Council, said his face is a relatively new one in the affordable housing community compared to others'.

"You have families who have been up here for 30, 40 years, generation after generation," Burress said.

Built in the 1950s just northwest of Latonia, the public housing complex holds roughly 360 units. Over the decades, the rental homes have fallen into disrepair, and its future has become uncertain. Now, the Covington Housing Authority, which owns City Heights, is poised to cut its losses and sell because it would be too expensive to rehabilitate.

That price tag would sit upwards of $50 million, according to Covington Housing Authority Executive Director Steve Arlinghaus.

"The federal government is just not going to award us over $50 million to take care of that," Arlinghaus said.

Facing that reality, CHA is preparing to move current residents out in phases over the next three years. The plan is to relocate 10 families each month, placing at least half in other affordable housing units across Covington and provide for moving expenses.

The problem, though: The housing authority estimates there are not enough other affordable housing units throughout the rest of Covington to accommodate all of City Heights' residents. Those the CHA cannot place in local affordable housing will receive vouchers to move to another city or state where there might be more available.

Once all residents have been relocated, the CHA could put the complex on the market, pending federal approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Burress would like to see things play out a bit differently.

"If they can't find another place, that means they're going to the Welcome Center or the homeless shelter in Cincinnati," he told WCPO.

While Arlinghaus said he hopes to put the complex on the market for $9 million, Burress hopes the community council can convince the housing authority to sell it back to the residents for $6 million, but that won't be possible unless he can get enough buy-in from his neighbors.

"We're really trying to buy it because, the way that things are going, I don't think that a lot of people will have a place to live," Burress said. "If everyone's on board, there's a great chance it will survive."