Still asking…where will they go?

Last week the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS) held a meeting with the tenants of Crystal Towers to discuss the sale of the building.

Still asking…where will they go?
August 09
10:10 2019

HAWS seems to be moving forward with sale of Crystal Towers while tenants left in the dark

For only the second time since the sale of the building was made public last year, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS) held a meeting with the residents of Crystal Towers to discuss the sale and what the future will hold for residents. 

During his open discussion with about half of the 201 tenants that call Crystal Towers home, Larry Woods, HAWS executive director, addressed several issues including vouchers residents will receive to relocate, the process for approving the sale of the building, and several other concerns from residents.

But one major question that has yet to be answered by Woods or anyone else from HAWS is:

Where will the current tenants go?

Here’s a recap on the yearlong saga centered around the sale. Built in 1970, Crystal Towers is one of three income-based high-rises owned by HAWS that serve seniors and individuals with disabilities. According to HAWS, while all three of the buildings need work, Crystal Towers needs more than $7 million in repairs and as a result, the HAWS’ Board of Commissioners voted to approve the sale.

In an article published by The Chronicle in March, Kevin Cheshire, HAWS general counsel and vice president of real estate development, said at least several offers were made on the building and after evaluating them all, they did identify which would be the best fit. Although HAWS had made their decision, according to Cheshire, the contract had not been signed because they were waiting on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to approve the contract.

“Our board has not signed the contract because we’re waiting on some guidance from HUD to make sure we can sign without additional approval from them. We’ve been told by the HUD officials that they think it’s probably okay, but they need to be certain, so we’re waiting to hear back from them,” Cheshire said.

While HAWS waits for the deal to be approved by HUD, the residents of Crystal Towers have been seemingly left in the dark. Even while speaking with residents last week, Woods never came clean about when the building will officially be sold. Woods told residents that the process could take 6 to 12 months and they would hold meetings every three months to update.

As an income-based property, tenants are required to pay 30% of their gross adjusted income and HAWS provides a subsidy for the rest of the total cost. Once HUD approves the sale, residents can either relocate to another HAWS property or use a housing voucher to get an apartment on the private market.

But here’s where problems will arise. Although Woods has said several times that the building won’t be sold until every tenant has a place to go, unless HAWS has property that no one knows about, that task of finding housing for 201 senior citizens seems impossible.

Currently, HAWS owns 21 subsidized housing properties across the city and most of those don’t have vacancies. And with a waiting list with hundreds of names and more being added every day, it’s clear that HAWS doesn’t have a solid plan to relocate the tenants of Crystal Towers. A search for available subsidized one-bedroom apartments on the HAWS website shows only a dozen vacancies.

Which is why we’re asking: where will they go?

According to HAWS representatives, the money received for the sale of Crystal Towers will be used to build smaller housing developments across the community. Although it seems like a long-term solution to the problem, with no vacant land or funds to even begin the process, building new developments won’t help the current residents of Crystal Towers.   

Following the meeting last week, several residents said they are already trying to find somewhere to stay. One man who has lived in the 11-story building for more than five years said he has started making arrangements, but he feels sorry for the older residents who don’t have any idea where they will be this time next year.

“I think the Housing Authority should be doing a lot more to help us find housing. I’ve been searching for a few months now, but there are older people in this building who need help. I feel like they’re trying to just brush this situation under a rug and move on.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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