Residents of a public housing development slated to close by Miami-Dade County are not moving out without a fight.
They have sought legal advice, started petitions and are questioning why they are being separated from their homes.
Just within the last few weeks, county officials have announced the closure of 399 units of affordable housing due to various reasons at Harry Cain Towers bordering Downtown, Miami, and Annie Coleman 14, located in parts of Liberty City/Brownsville.
“What the heck is going on with housing?” said Rachel Johnson, a housing organizer and advocate. “Where is the OTAC [Overall Tenant Advisory Council]?”
Johnson is referring to the group that represents public housing residents. A letter dated Sept. 25 sent to public housing residents, advising them of their appointment to determine their eligibility for Housing Choice Voucher Program, widely known as Section 8, does not include OTAC.
Of late, the decision to privatize public housing, has left residents confused, wondering if the affordable housing stock for low-income, elderly and the county’s most vulnerable residents, is dwindling.
These announced closures have not only upset the Black community but has many of the residents who live within Harry Cain Towers and Annie Coleman 14, perplexed.
“This has been my home for the last eight years,” said one resident.
Unclear is whether a shuttered Annie Coleman 14 would reopen. Records show that Annie Coleman is slated for demolition. Residents want to know if Annie Coleman 14 is slated for redevelopment.
Though county officials are closing down the two developments and offering Section 8 vouchers, residents are concerned with two things: their rights to return and finding a new place to affordably live.
Recent reports say the closure of Annie Coleman is due to crime, but many of residents have said they feel safer now since police patrol the area more frequently.
Annie Coleman was a community activist back in 1922. Miami-Dade County named the housing complex in Coleman’s honor back in 1966.
Arlette (Rose) Adams, a longtime resident of Annie Coleman 14 is very concerned about the mixed messages.
Adams believes that shutting down Annie Coleman 14 is doing a dishonor and blatant disservice to Coleman’s legacy.
“Out of all the meetings concerning Annie Coleman 14, not one time have we (residents) asked for Section 8 Vouchers, not one time,” said Adams. Adams said the residents have asked for redevelopment at nearby Lincoln Gardens, which was slated as a part of Liberty City Rising. Many residents at Annie Coleman 14, have been given a notice from the Miami-Dade County about Section 8 vouchers, but there is still a lot of uncertainty.
Some local housing advocates are concerned that Annie Coleman is being shut down due to privatization through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). Attorneys from Legal Services of Greater Miami are not convinced that Annie Coleman 14 is being closed down for “crime” or RAD.
Keenya Robertson, president and CEO of Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence Inc., (HOPE) wasn’t aware of Annie Coleman being closed down nor Harry Cain Towers until she was contacted by a reporter.
“What’s important in the closing of the two developments are the uniform plans for relocation set forth by HUD guidelines for residents and, above all, their rights,” said Robertson. “Housing residents need to understand that Section 8 vouchers are more expensive than that of public housing [subsidies],” said Robertson.
Robertson disclosed that HOPE had lost some of its funding from the County, so Fair Housing outreach in community has been curtailed.
But that’s not stopping Adams of Annie Coleman 14. She is setting out to ensure residents are informed of their rights. So, with the help of the Legal Services of Greater Miami, the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP and other advocacy groups, a meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. in the Brownsville area to educate residents about their rights.