High-rise relocation proposal endorsed by officials, Schmoke

November 27, 1990|By Ginger Thompson

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke endorsed yesterday a proposal by a Baltimore Housing Authority task force to move families with children out of the city's public housing high-rise buildings.

Housing officials said that although the plan is extremely ambitious, it is far from impossible.

The plan, presented to the mayor last week in a one-page letter signed by the 14-member task force, calls for families at George B. Murphy Homes, Lexington Terrace, Lafayette Courts, and Flag House Courts to be moved into other types of public housing units.

The high-rises currently house more than 7,000 tenants, including about 3,000 children, officials said.

Once the families are relocated, the task force recommends that the high-rises be used to house low- to moderate-income adults.

"In considering options and crystallizing goals," said Mayor Schmoke in a press release, "the task force has given us some basis to begin the process of looking at how the Housing Authority and the city can translate these goals into workable plans.

"This initial step is an important one," the statement said, "but a lot of work lies ahead."

Robert W. Hearn, executive director of the Housing Authority, said that implementation of the plan could take years and would require a significant investment of federal dollars.

"But, I think it's feasible over the long term and with great cooperation from HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development]," he said.

"I believe we can blaze new trails in housing," said City Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, D-5th, who served on the task force. "It just takes a can-do attitude and some flexibility at the federal level."

Mr. Hearn appointed the task force eight months ago to determine the best use for more than $100 million in federal funds that the Housing Authority expects to receive over the next 10 years.

He said there is a growing consensus by public housing officials across the country that security and maintenance costs make multifamily high-rises too expensive.

"Maintaining just the elevators is incredibly expensive," he said. "During the last fiscal year we spent $1.1 million just on elevator repairs, and $900,000 of that was in the family high-rises."

He also said that the bulk of the families living in the high-rises were single mothers with at least two children under the age of 12, and that in high-rises such families did not have access to recreational facilities and social services that could improve the quality of their lives.

"Families do not belong in the high-rises," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke in praising the task force's recommendations.

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