Newport News public housing complex getting major renovations

Residents of about 100 units in the Lassiter Courts Apartments will walk into essentially new homes over the course of the next year, but they won’t be moving very far.

In November, the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority started renovating the complex near the southern end of Ivy Avenue, and residents are being relocated as crews work on the units. As work is finished, the tenants will return to a renovated unit at the same rate they previously paid.

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“It’ll be a huge impact for the people returning,” said David Staley, capital projects administrator for the authority.

The renovations are possible through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program that lets local housing authorities use equity from low-income housing tax-credit programs to renovate housing. The work on Lassiter will cost about $7.5 million, half funded through the program and half through debt service.

Karen Wilds, the housing authority director, said the federal program has helped the authority do major work on its public housing throughout the city. Lassiter will be the fifth to be renovated in recent years, and the Spratley House will be next, Wilds said.

Residents of these public housing complexes pay 30 percent of their income as rent.

Along with work on the living units, crews will build a new community center space, including a Boys and Girls Club. The existing Boys and Girls Club building, which the housing authority also uses, will be made into a warehouse.

The townhouse-style apartments currently being worked on are in various stages of the process — some are missing walls, floors, cabinets, kitchen appliances, bathrooms or HVAC systems. Staley said there will be some reconfiguration in the kitchen spaces. On the outside, the buildings will get new sidings and roofs.

Wilds said for the federal program, all the renovations need to have a 30-year useful life.

“It’s not quite HGTV,” Staley said — you can’t condense the renovation into a television show package. Work will be a long process, starting with a few units, and letting people move back in as work finishes. Then, work starts elsewhere in the complex.

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