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No place like home: Helping tenants cope

July 23, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Sometimes progress is not kind to those who are in its path, as some residents of Hagerstown's Westview Homes have discovered. Their public-housing complex will soon be flattened to make way for a $73.5 million project called Gateway Crossing. Now it's up the housing authority and the city's non-profit agencies to make the move as painless as possible for resident.

It's been a little more than two years since housing officials announced their plan to demolish Westview, a barrack-style public housing project built on the early 1950s which has become increasingly difficult to maintain.

The 210 existing units will be replaced with 150 public housing units, 140 income-restricted rentals units and 110 private homes. Although there will be fewer public housing units in the new development, the federal government has agreed to give the local authority additional vouchers for Section 8 subsidized apartments.

By putting together a mixture of private homes, public-housing units and market-rate rentals, housing officials hope to create a more economically integrated community. The complex will also contain a community center open to all residents of the West End, even if they don't live in Gateway Crossing.

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For those who must move while all this is being built, the Housing Authority has guaranteed that former residents will receive the same level of support as they did previously. In addition, any moving expenses they incur will be covered.

But even though housing officials have covered every possibility, there are still some residents who've lived in Westview for 20 years or more and who feel a great deal of anxiety about the move.

If they've been good tenants that long, we're confident they'll get first crack at the new units when they open and that in the meantime officials will reassure them that just because there's a desire to revitalize the neighborhood doesn't mean that its longtime residents will be forgotten.

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