MIAMI – Former residents of the Scott-Carver housing project in Liberty City returned to the area recently with hopes of laying a blueprint for the rebuilding of environmentally sound dwellings.
More than 150 people attended the Designing Green Competition kick-off, where former Scott-Carver residents chimed in on the development of homes slated for that area.
The project, which is a collaboration between the Miami Workers Center and the U.S. Green Builders Council, allows students and recent college graduates the opportunity to draw up plans for energy-saving, non-toxic residences.
The annual challenge encourages competitors to create designs that use less water and less power. The former residents on April 26 said they hope the design of the new “green” residences will replace the 850 public housing units that were demolished in 2001 and 2002.
“Eleven-hundred families were displaced. Some lost their Section 8 voucher and became homeless,” said Aiheshia Hudson, a Miami Workers Center organizer, and coordinator of the Designing Green event. “We want to give the people the right to return to the area.”
More than 20 green design teams across the state will compete. The winner will walk away with $2,500 and be eligible to enter the Green Builders Council’s national competition.
Suggestions for the project ranged from building wider doors for the elderly and the disabled in wheelchairs to building larger rooms for easier access.
While former residents of Scott-Carver attended the event to give input about the design, a few attendees jumpstarted the program with a reflection of the development many dubbed a village.
“I moved in Scott-Carver in 1994,” said Inez Fulton. “I have four boys. When I was there, I had my village watching them. But now since we moved out, they are out of control. Now that we are in a new place, my kids say they want to move back home. I told them ‘we are home,’ but they say they want to move back to Scott.”
“Scott was home to me and my three children,” said Yvonne Stratford, leader of the Low-Income Families Fighting Together (LIFFT) organization. “We got along like family. We had a yard, plants and flowers. It was just a good environment.’’
She continued, “They even built a YET (NFL Youth Education Town) Center so kids could come across the street to play.”
Stratford has been leading the struggle to redevelop low-income housing at the Scott-Carver site, but said she realizes that there are roadblocks that hamper the rebuilding on all of the land once appropriated for Scott-Carver homes.
“I didn’t even know that toxins were under the ground,” said Stratford. “Half of it won’t be rebuilt because that’s where most of the toxins are,” she said, pointing to the area north of nearby Gwen Cherry Park.
“They say they ain’t got no money, but the government got lots of money,” Stratford said.
No homes, no hope
In 1999, Miami-Dade County received $35 million through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Hope VI project to rebuild better homes on the Scott-Carver site. Residents at the time were skeptical about the plan and refused to move out of their homes. But after community leaders convinced them that the deal was a win-win situation for their families, residents put hope in the Hope VI project.
“At first they told us they were going to build 500 units,” said Mae Smith, a former resident who lived in Scott-Carver from the time it was built in 1954 until she was forced to move out in 2003. “Five years later, they told us they want to build 300. Now, I hear them saying 80 houses.”
In February 2007, Miami-Dade Housing Agency signed an agreement with the Miami Workers Center committing the county to building 850 extremely low-income units to replace the ones that were demolished.
After scandal rocked Miami-Dade County’s Housing Agency, HUD stepped in to manage the program. Miami-Dade County reluctantly relinquished power over the embattled department to the federal agency.
“In a case like this, they still don’t have any housing,” said Donna White, a HUD spokesperson. “That is not something that has happened across the board. There are some communities that have done very well with the Hope VI program and have actually built the promised housing. Examples include Washington D.C., Atlanta and Chicago.”
According to White, the Housing Agency has approximately $16 million still left of the grant, and virtually no housing has been built. She noted that only 57 homeownership units have been built so far. The Housing Agency worked with Habitat for Humanity to complete those, she said.
“Under the HUD receivership, an RFQ was issued at the end of March to request developers to submit qualifications so that the Housing Authority can contract a developer,” said White. “The receivership team that is in place now should select a developer by the end of May. It will be the receivership team and the developer that will decide how many homes are built. We anticipate 150 to 200 units.”
“What we need to do is turn this thing around,” said J. Beattie, director of architecture for Leo A. Daly, an international architecture, planning, engineering, interior design, and program management firm. “Hopefully we can bring some good ideas about green. Not just the stuff you read about or see on TV, but some real innovative things.”
Optimism permeated throughout the crowd. Former residents and Green participants all held out hope that this competition could re-ignite the determination and fervor needed to move the building process along.
“This is how change happens,” said Nick Gunia, president of Alterna Corp. “People get together and work together to turn this thing around. Green building is affordable building. What green means to me is having more money to buy food.”
Former residents of Scott-Carver homes agree that saving money and the environment are the main motivators behind the Green concept. But, they say, their efforts to have the area redeveloped will be in vain if other former residents don’t make their voices heard.
“We need you all to help when we start the fight against HUD,” said Fulton. “We need support from the community. We need y’all fighting with us.”
Attendees seemed to buy into the “all hands on deck” approach. Organizers warned that while the focus is on the federal government to do the right thing, they must not overlook the responsibility of local policymakers.
“It’s not just about holding U.S. HUD accountable, but Miami-Dade County as well,” said Aiyeshia Hudson.
Photo courtesy of the Miami Workers Center. Inez Fulton, above, a former Scott-Carver resident, said she and her four sons want to move back home. The building behind her is the last remaining Scott-Carver structure.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
In an effort to stay focused on the redevelopment of Scott-Carver homes, the Miami Workers Center, along with Low-Income Families Fighting Together, created five principles to keep their mission on task.
1. One for One Replacement
The replacement of 850 extremely low-income units in the Scott-Carver target area, which is bound by 36 Street to the south, 119 Street to the north, Interstate 95 to the east, and 32 Avenue to the west.
2. Right to Return
All former Scott-Carver residents shall have the right to return to the Scott-Carver target area, in either on-site or off-site developments.
3. Community Participation and Control
Former Scott-Carver residents and residents of Liberty City shall provide leadership and actively participate in every stage of the process – from concept design to project development to ongoing management and ownership.
4. Economic Sustainability
Scott-Carver Redevelopment will maximize opportunities for local business participation and job opportunities for local residents and former Scott-Carver residents. This includes special job training and job placement initiatives such as having local contractors agree to hire a percentage of their workforce as new hires, utilizing a community-based first-source hiring hall.
5. Environmental Sustainability
Scott-Carver Redevelopment will assure utilization of sustainable energy, green building, a healthy and safe environment, green spaces, and development of community institutions, including a Black History museum, family health center and daycare center.