Residents were welcomed back to the remade building after a year spent living elsewhere while the building was upgraded. The federally-subsidized living is open to those 62 and older who have an annual income of less than $23,250 (or $26,550 for two).
“If you’re a typical senior on a fixed income, Social Security, this is a great thing,” said Ray Buday, executive director of the Housing Authority.
The building was erected in 1981 by a group that included MDJ associate editor Bill Kinney and has done meritorious service through the years, but was showing its age.
“Times change,” Buday said. “(The original design featured) a little parlor with a little TV and this little community room with tile floors.”
The new version includes an exercise room, movie theater and more shared space.
It’s the latest big move by the MHA, which over the past decade has helped lead the national trend away from warehousing the poor in crowded, crime-ridden housing projects. The city has demolished almost all of the projects that used to dot Marietta, leaving just those designed for senior citizens. Those who once lived in the now-gone projects were given federal Section 8 Housing vouchers, allowing much greater choice of where to live.
“From kind of a sociological perspective, it’s much better to have folks, especially families with kids, not living in an environment of what I call the projects,” Buday said. “We like to think (crime) will be diminished because of the more of an integration of low-income folks, people who pay lower rents, around so you don’t have a concentration,” Buday said.
The city’s success at transforming those housing sites should be kept in mind as Mariettans consider whether to approve a $68 million redevelopment bond for the Franklin Road corridor next month. If it passes, it would mean the razing of a number of the rundown apartment complexes along that road the relocations of their residents.
The City and MHA have proven they can successfully manage the challenges of moving thousands of people from undesirable housing to better living arrangements. Had those moves not gone well — had the city left those former MHA residents high and dry, or moved them into less appealing housing, you can be sure we all would have heard about it by now. But we haven’t — and that’s both a testimony to the professionalism and skill of Buday and his team, and a reason to be confident the City can play a similarly positive role in the lives of many of those now stuck in shabby apartments along Franklin Road, should the bond pass next month.