(Orange, Texas)

November 4, 2013

Residents express numerous concerns over proposed housing development

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — While many citizens are worried about the three new low-housing developments, the reasons for concern differ greatly.

Residents of Velma Jeter Manor, 102 Velma Jeter in Orange, were concerned when they would need to relocate.

One concern for residents was when the possibility of relocating would begin and if it would be during Christmas holidays.

Executive Vice President of The ITEX Group LLC Chris Akbari said the project was not scheduled to begin until February or March 2014.

Housing Authority Commissioner Patricia Coppage said the residents had a choice to return after the construction of the new development was completed.

“We do not take away any of your choices,” Coppage said during a public meeting Tuesday. “But you do get first choice to come back.”

Coppage said some residents may decide to stay where they relocate and wanted the residents to know they did have options.

There will not be an additional cost to the tenants according to Akbari. He also added that funds to turn on and off utilities was included in the funding for the project.

“We will not pay for past due utilities,” Akbari said. “That would still be the responsibility of the resident.”

Velma Jeter Manor is currently 46 units with the proposed new plans for 80 units at the site. The development is a mixed income housing with 46 restricted for public housing.

Energy efficiency was considered in the planning stages with each unit having Energy Star appliances and windows.

“We did this for you [the residents],” Akbari said. “Energy costs are going up and this will help with the electric costs.”

The location will also include a community room referred to as the Tree House where residents can attend services for GED, afterschool programs and other services to assist the residents. Presently, the residents have to attend such programs at the Housing Authority’s main office, 516 Burton Avenue, approximately 4 miles away.

Joann Dews, resident, said she hopes to see the new building.

“We really need something new here,” Dews said.

Velma Jeter Manor was built in 1981-1982 and designed as a thirty-year structure. The new units will also be thirty-year structures with larger units.

“It was decided to build back instead of rehabbing the location,” Akbari said. “We wanted something to last another 30 years instead of just putting a Band-Aid on it.”

It will take close to twelve months to complete the project once construction begins.