Hayes Court Residents Want To Stay

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(Host) Some residents of a public housing complex in West Brattleboro are up in arms about a town decision to demolish their buildings.

The Brattleboro Housing Authority says there’s no way to adapt the Hayes Court housing complex to meet the area’s most pressing need: low-income assisted living apartments for seniors and the disabled.

VPR’s Susan Keese has the story.

(Keese) The Rutherford B. Hayes Apartments are right off busy route 9 in West Brattleboro. But the boxy frame apartment buildings are set apart from the noise, facing one another on a quiet cul de sac.

Longtime resident Kathryn Lucier says tenants see deer and waterfowl in the nearby woods.

(Lucier) It’s just a great place to live. (Women): " The quietness, the peace that we have, the peace of mind." (Lucier) "Right."

(Keese) On a warm evening, Lucier sits talking with fellow residents on the porch of the Hayes Court rec center.

Lucier has led the charge against the demolition of the complex’s nine buildings and 72 apartments.

The new complex will offer services designed to help keep seniors and people with disabilities out of institutions, and living well at home.

 But Lucier says she’s living well now.

She and her neighbor Joan Huneven went door to door through the complex with a letter asking why the Brattleboro Housing Authority would tear down perfectly good buildings that are only 40 years old.  About 30 residents signed the letter, which was published in several local papers.

Here’s Joan Huneven:

(Huneven) "Brattleboro needs this. But why here, we’ve been asking? Why here? Well we’re in a flood zone, we’re not up to code, HUD won’t give us money to upgrade." 

(Keese) Huneven isn’t satisfied with the answers she’s heard so far. She says another housing complex in Brattleboro floods repeatedly, while Hayes Court does not.

Windham County Senator Jeanette White works for the Brattleboro Housing Authority. She says the agency tried hard to keep part of Hayes Court standing.

But she says HUD –the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development — has tightened its flood plain policy since Hurricane Katrina, when New Orleans lost all its public housing.

(White) "HUD will not put money into renovating housing that’s in a flood plain."

And White says if the buildings can’t be renovated, they’ve got to come down.

(White) "They don’t have sprinkler systems in them, we can’t put sprinkler systems in them. They don’t have elevators. We can’t put elevators in them. They’re not handicapped accessible."

(Keese) The Brattleboro Housing authority has promised it will find new homes for all of Hayes Court’s tenants. White and others have been meeting one-on-one with residents to talk about their needs and preferences.

She says not everyone is poised to fight.

(White) "In fact many of the residents should be in that kind of housing, but there isn’t any."

(Keese) Housing officials say some tenants are applying for spots in the new assisted living project. But they’ll have to move until the new complex is ready.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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