BY ANDREAS BUTLER
New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority has made it possible for some families to move into brand-new, affordable homes.
Six new houses are the first significant development besides Habitat for Humanity homes built in more than 40 years in the historic Westside neighborhood. The rental housing project was a collaborative effort of the New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority, the City of New Smyrna Beach and Volusia County.
“Because of this team effort, this place has been transformed into an oasis where children can play and families can grow. We are proud to be a part of such an effort,” said Mayor James Hathaway at an April 14 ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the milestone.
The single-family homes are located on the corner of Railroad Street and Dimmick Street. Five have an address on Railroad Street while one has a Julia Street address.
‘More to come’
Brian Clark, executive director of the New Smyrna Housing Authority, told the Daytona Times that the development doesn’t have an official name yet. It’s just referred to as the Railroad Street property.
“We hope that this is just the beginning and the foundation of more to come,” said Clark.
New Smyrna’s Westside is predominantly African-American and has a rich history dating back over 150 years.
Blacks came to the area dating back to after the American Civil War. For years, many worked on the Florida East Coast Railroad and had a thriving community.
“I don’t know why it’s been so long. Habitat for Humanity has done low-cost housing in the area, but we just haven’t had a lot of development in that part of town,” commented Clark.
Not public housing
New Smyrna Beach, like most cities suffered heavily during the housing crisis in recent years.
Because of the housing crisis, the Westside community has experienced an exodus of many residents.
“I came here in 2011, and we’ve had many people in our Westside community leave. Many were in our Section 8 program. They couldn’t find comfortable housing in our community. We surveyed them and they all said that they would move back if they could,” Clark explained.
The new open market homes are the first of their kind. Although owned by the New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority, they do not fall under the guidelines of Section 8 or public housing. Section 8 is a rent subsidy program for eligible low-income families through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
These homes are designed for families earning 14,000 to $45,000 per year.
Help for families
Families renting these homes are expected to pay $736 to $945 per month. Each has three bedrooms and three bathrooms.
“I’m very excited about (the new houses). I can’t even explain, I’ve never had my own house,” said Joy Moore, 21, who will be moving her family into one of the properties after nearly three years in public housing.
“It’s brand-new and it’s bigger. We know we need to build more Section 8 housing and housing for working families. Moving from public housing to the housing market is pretty tough. Many working families that do often go from paying $400 to $500 per month for rent up to $1,200 to $1,500 per month for a three-bedroom house. This program can help these families,” added Clark.
Years of planning
Construction took just seven months but the planning of these homes dates back to 2012.
“It’s been coming for some time. Most of the years have been raising funds and planning,” stated Clark.
Funding came from the housing authority as well as a $271,979 grant from the Community Redevelopment Agency for the New Smryna Beach Housing Authority and a $340,000 grant from the Volusia County HOMES program.
Construction was done by all local builders and contractors. The city and housing authority have agreed to keep the homes in the affordable housing arena for at least 25 years.
The New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority has 126 public housing units and has issued out over 253 Section 8 housing vouchers.
The public housing developments in the area are Donnelly Homes, Greenlawn Terrace, Live Oak Homes and Enterprise Homes.
“Our units aren’t that bad. They are old but in good shape. I’ve worked with housing authorities just about everywhere. In New Smyrna, we don’t have all the violent crime and people are really neighborly,” Clark added.
Meredith Knight of the New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority contributed to this report.