The U.S. Housing Act passed in 1949, and in response, the Durham mayor, Dan Edwards, appointed a committee of citizens to address sub-standard housing in Durham. The committee recommended the passage of a sub-standard housing ordinance to empower the city to address poor housing and the passage of an ordinance to establish a housing authority. Shortly after, the Housing Authority of the City of Durham was established. The Housing Authority’s first properties were McDougald Terrace and Few Gardens. This year marks their 70th Anniversary, of which they will commemorate in October with a variety of community events. (For updates on events, go to their website at www.durhamhousingauthority.org/)
Later changed to Durham Housing Authority (DHA), the non-profit organization strives to be the answer to gentrification and lack of affordable housing in Durham. Durham has experienced rapid growth and the expansion has not included fair access to housing all income groups. DHA recently entered into a new partnership with Durham City to increase affordable housing. Currently, there are only 400 affordable housing units downtown. The DHA Downtown and Neighborhood Plan (DDNP) will renovate DHA housing downtown and expand affordable housing by 2500 units over 10 years. As income generates from the downtown housing units, it will afford redevelopment in communities that are not as highly sought after. DDNP aims to promote housing equity and access so that all have access to affordable housing.
One of the more ambitious goals of DDNP is to tear down the current DHA offices and build new housing units that include commercial and green spaces.
DHA provides health, financial and social programs to residents designed to improve their overall wellbeing. The Family Self-Sufficiency program helps families increase personal income. Families who meet their financial goals have the ability to make a down payment on a home, pay for college or buy a better vehicle. The DHA Resident Services Department provides residents access to education (including GED programs), job training and hiring, credit improvement, home ownership and retention, smoking cessation and other health improvement programs, as well as support for minority business ownership.
DHA has been a DUSON clinical placement site for eight years and has become a key strategic partner. DUSON faculty partnered with DHA on their health impact assessment and were asked as a member of the community to comment on the Agency’s annual plan and program policies. More recently, DHA Director of Strategic Management, Ashanti Brown worked with Donna Biederman, associate professor, as a co-Principal Investigator on a research project funded by the Duke Clinical & Translational Science Institute. According to Biederman, the “findings from the project will help inform eviction prevention efforts as well as highlight the need for proper assessment and documentation of social determinants of health in the electronic health record.”
Volunteer opportunities are available for those who are interested in benefiting residents living in public housing. Volunteers can conduct a drive for clothes, toys, and food. Contact Resident Services at DHA for more information.