The storefronts at the 1400 block of North Liberty were recently discussed at length by the W-S City Council. Councilmember Annette Scippio bemoaned their destruction. Councilmembers D.D. Adams and Barbara Burke both acknowledged at the February 6 Council meeting that the Liberty Corridor (Liberty Street, Cleveland Avenue, and adjacent neighborhoods) has been poorly served by the City of Winston-Salem for decades.
“But to your point Councilmember Larson, when a community has been left for decades of disinvestment, this is what you get. This is just not urban renewal. This is a community that never got the investment that the other sides of town got…” -Mayor Pro Tempore, D.D. Adams. Winston-Salem City Council, February 6, 2023
But Councilmembers have been silent about the plight of longtime residents on Willie Davis and North Cleveland, just a short distance away from the Liberty Street storefronts, who are being evicted from apartments the City owns.
While the Winston-Salem City Council cried crocodile tears over long-vacant storefronts, Housing Justice Now was organizing for tenants facing eviction at 1200 Willie Davis Drive and Cleveland Avenue.
Residents living along Winston’s most neglected corridor are being evicted so that improvements can be made to their buildings. That’s the pretext, anyway. But if displaced from their current apartments, the low-income residents at Willie Davis and N. Cleveland are faced with the daunting challenge of finding another apartment property that will accept their Section 8 housing voucher. The only way for the residents at Willie Davis and N. Clevland to avoid housing precarity is for the City to move them into Phase 1 of the Choice Grant project at the former Brown Elementary School.
Housing Justice Now, by holding a public anti-eviction vacation at Willie Davis and N. Clevland Avenue on Monday, shed some light on the game the City is playing at Cleveland Avenue. After examining property records on Forsyth County’s website, I’m convinced that the City is land banking properties along Cleveland Avenue to be used in the Choice Neighborhood Grant transformation of Cleveland Avenue to ‘Newside.’ The press release that the City put out regarding 1200 Willie Davis admitted as much.
In Monday’s Press Conference, Assistant City Manager Toney confirmed that 1200 Willie Davis Drv and 1365 N Cleveland Ave would be renovated to confirm with the CHOICE NEIGHBORHOODS INITIATIVE- despite being outside the initiative’s jurisdiction.
Gentrification, plain and simple.
— Housing Justice Now (@HJNWinstonSalem) February 23, 2023
The City “purchased” 1200 Willie Davis Drive for $1 back in August 1994. Residents have stated that they were not aware that the City owned the building until they contacted the City about the metal steps in front of their building. The City removed one of the two sets of steps and then notified residents that they were being evicted in order to rehab the entire property. Activists at Housing Justice Now have criticized the City for being a bad landlord and engaging in blatant gentrification, using a set of crumbling steps as an excuse to push low-income Black residents out of Cleveland Avenue.
The City has owned three or four properties on Cleveland Avenue and four properties on Willie Davis Drive since the 1990s. What is their plan? Who voted for that? Where is the accountability? Why are the residents of 1200 Willie Davis Drive paying the price for City plans that were made behind closed doors and without public input? Where is the community involvement in the redevelopment of the Cleveland Avenue Homes?
It appears that the City (probably in conjunction with HAWS) has been land-banking properties along Cleveland Avenue, anticipating the redevelopment of the Cleveland Avenue Homes. While the City was sitting on its Cleveland Avenue/Willie Davis properties, failing to improve their properties or the lives of the predominantly Black, working-class Cleveland Avenue, it poured tens of millions into Wake Downtown.
The City’s Clevland Avenue land banking (unearthed by Housing Justice Now’s action) is an example that the City can land bank when it wants to. The City owns hundreds of properties, many of which, according to the City’s own estimates, are suitable for affordable housing. But the City has failed to coordinate an affordable housing land bank.
German manufacturer Ziehl-Abegg is coming to Winston due to decades of City (and W-S Alliance) land banking along Union Cross Road. The Wake Forest Innovation Quarter exists in its current size due to years of the City working tirelessly with Wake Forest to acquire land and relocated City properties (City Yard). Brookwood Business Park (a scandal in its own right) and Whitaker Park are also examples of the City’s land banking record.
Allen Joines speaking of the transition from Belews Street to the WFU Innovation Quarter. Joines called DTWS “the heart of the city.”
“If your heart is rotten then your city is not going to be in a good position.”
Actually, East Winston is the ♥️ of WSNC & it needs assistance! pic.twitter.com/VRDumgN7tv
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) March 7, 2022
But when it comes to land banking for affordable housing or going one step further and establishing a community land trust, the City of W-S has been unwilling to bring its substantial resources to the table. The City (and Housing Authority) have ignored and rejected the Happy Hill Neighborhood Association’s pleas to let them form a land trust at Happy Hill. Ignoring the agency of Happy Hill, Winston-Salem’s most historic African American neighborhood, that’s something shameful the City won’t highlight during Black History Month.
I stand by my quote in the Winston-Salem Journal, “The Happy Hill Neighborhood Association wants the same deal you (Council Member Scippio) were advocating for the Arts Based School, said Yolanda Taylor, an attorney. “Place the land in a community land trust.” https://t.co/Q7mYz9Qebg
— Yolanda Taylor (@law4community) September 29, 2022
In November 2019, the Center for Community Progress(“CCP”) completed a study of Winston-Salem’s approach to vacant and abandoned properties.
Among other things, CCP found:
-950 properties in the City were tax delinquent ﬁve years or more, and collectively owed more than$850,000 to the city.
-988 residential properties had been deemed unsafe and condemned.
-40 demolitions had been completed in the last 5 years.
-497 properties were deemed “chronic violators,” such that the city hired a contractor to mow the properties approximately twice per month during the mowing season, at taxpayer expense. -Grounded Solutions, 2021 (report below)
ForEveryoneHome initiative-… by CP Tew
In September 2020, the City published a list of potential properties that could be used for an affordable housing land bank. Many of the listed properties are either owned by the City, have been tax delinquent for years, or are in a state of disrepair. Tax delinquency and disrepair give the City the right to seize the properties and put them to good use.
Since September 2020, the City has partnered with numerous affordable housing experts, commissioned more studies, and even worked with Senator Paul Lowe to get SB 145 approved. But they haven’t formed an affordable housing land bank, as the Center for Community Progress and Grounded Solutions suggested.
The September 2020 list of potential properties for an affordable housing land bank ready shows a cluster of properties along Cleveland Avenue that are land bank ready. But affordable housing land banking and the establishment of a community land trust are taking a backseat to the Choice Neighborhood initiative. Decisions on the future of Cleveland Avenue are being made largely in darkness, without public input.
The City and the private sector have deprioritized North Cleveland and Willie Davis for decades. This is ground that is ripe for a community land trust that builds both wealth and sovereignty in a community that has been robbed of both. Cleveland Avenue’s transition to the ‘Newside’ should not displace longtime residents, such as the renters at 1200 Willie Davis Drive.
.@CityofWS “purchased” 1200 Willie Davis Drive for $1 back in August 1994. The City has owned several properties at N Cleveland and Willie Davis since the 1990s. What is their plan? Who voted for that? Where is the accountability? https://t.co/YhBIwo7C3w… https://t.co/kZ66ctez71
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) February 22, 2023
Affordable Housing Sites and Delinquent
Winston-Salem residents ordered to leave apartments for repairs https://t.co/4GOGqkwVTY
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) February 24, 2023
.@HJNWinstonSalem anti-eviction action at 1200 Willie Davis Drive. @CityofWS, are you listening? pic.twitter.com/9fLzgW4iPX
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) February 20, 2023