Durham's 2019 Housing Bond Referendum

Durham Housing Authority’s oldest public housing community project will not be redeveloped with Housing Bond funds.
Durham Housing Authority’s oldest public housing community project will not be redeveloped with Housing Bond funds.

Durham voters will be asked to support a $95 million housing bond this November. City of Durham leaders claim that the bond referendum passage is critical to improving homelessness services and tax relief programs as well as establishing necessary funds for creating and preserving affordable housing projects. Proponents of the housing bond tout more funding for eviction diversion, employment training, and eliminating restrictions on homeowners to build additional housing options on their property.

Bond opponents believe that Durham’s affordable housing crisis requires a bigger ask of taxpayers. Many opponents voice a need to imagine bolder, more innovative ways to decrease food deserts, increase low-income entrepreneurship, and incorporate green technology in our city’s affordable housing plans.

It is estimated that the bond will cost the average Durham homeowner between $40 and $60 annually; in return, these revenues will lead to more than 2,800 affordable rental units and for-sale opportunities. Even without the $95 million in bond revenue, city officials confirm that affordable housing projects will move forward, but these projects will not keep pace with the rate of displacement and the city’s growing affordability needs.

One notable provision confirmed by Anthony Scott, Chief Executive Officer of the Durham Housing Authority (DHA), is the $2.5 million commitment in bond funds to train DHA residents in construction skills. This will help DHA residents become more marketable candidates in finding meaningful employment in connection with the construction of more affordable housing in Durham. This provision is aimed at providing well-paying jobs to DHA residents while also providing experience and skills that can serve DHA residents long after the projects are complete.

One growing concern is over the order in which certain properties will be developed. Most of the properties slated to be redeveloped with bond funds will be in downtown, even though the largest properties in dire need of redevelopment are not in downtown Durham proper. DHA properties such as Fayette Place, McDougald Terrace, and Hoover Road will not be redeveloped with funds from the housing bond. McDougald Terrace is one of the oldest public housing communities in the state of North Carolina, yet it did not make the cut. DHA spokespeople note that it makes more fiscal sense to wait until market conditions improve before prioritizing McDougald Terrace. Still, a growing number of community members are unsatisfied with this rationale.

City leaders have committed to having multiple public hearings and meetings throughout the fall for Durham residents to voice their concerns.

Keep an eye out for People’s Alliance Action Alerts for more information on events and resources to help you to make a more informed decision around the $95 million affordable housing bond referendum.

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You Can Vote now independent nonprofit

Contributed by Jennifer McGovern and Mark Hellman of The People's Alliance Fund Board of Directors

You Can Vote transitions from project of The People’s Alliance Fund to independent status

You Can Vote has become an independent nonprofit with Kate Fellman continuing to serve as its Executive Director. The voter education and registration project was started within Durham People’s Alliance by Kate in 2013 working as a volunteer.

Since the work of You Can Vote is strictly nonpartisan, the project moved under the wing of The People's Alliance Fund in 2014 to take advantage of the Fund's tax-deductibility for donors. You Can Vote grew spectacularly within the Fund over the next five years under Kate’s leadership, from one staffer covering two counties to a large staff currently serving 12 counties and from a budget under $20,000 to one over $500,000. You Can Vote has registered over 30,000 voters in that time, thanks largely to the work of the more than 2,000 volunteers it has attracted and trained and the skill of the staff in finding high-traffic venues for them to engage potential voters.

Fund president Mark Hellman congratulated Kate and the Board of Directors of You Can Vote (YCV) for meeting all the requirements over the past year to establish YCV with the Internal Revenue Service as an independent tax-deductible nonprofit.

"The People’s Alliance Fund is delighted by You Can Vote’s growth and success and will continue to support it financially and morally, as it has since YCV’s first full year of 2014," he said. "The tremendous nonpartisan work of the You Can Vote staff, board, and volunteers is vital to democracy in North Carolina. And because North Carolina is a swing state in national elections, it is also vital to the future of democracy in the United States," he added.

The members of the initial Board of Directors of You Can Vote are president Susan Yaggy, vice-president Duncan Yaggy, treasurer Marty Belin, secretary Angie Santiago, and at-large member Tania Walker.

YCV’s goals for 2020 are to double the number of volunteers it trains and mobilizes and to increase the counties it serves from 12 to 20, according to a new video at the You Can Vote homepage (https://www.youcanvote.org/).

You Can Vote’s association with The People’s Alliance Fund made donations to it tax-deductible for individual income tax purposes. It also permitted You Can Vote to solicit and secure grants from charitable foundations located in North Carolina and across the country.

A large part of the Fund’s support was provided by Fund treasurer Jennifer McGovern. She managed You Can Vote’s finances on a volunteer basis as its annual budget grew more than twenty-five times its initial size. Durham People’s Alliance staff person L’Tanya Durante provided crucial administrative assistance in this task under a cost-sharing arrangement between the Fund and Durham People’s Alliance.

The People’s Alliance Fund will continue to sponsor The Durham Living Wage Project (https://www.durhamlivingwage.org/) and to award quickly decided micro-grants to volunteer-led progressive projects in Durham and surrounding counties, including eligible activities undertaken by Durham People’s Alliance action teams. Visit the Fund website at https://www.peoplesalliancefund.org/ to learn more.


Open Letter to Governor Cooper to Oppose HB370

You can find a PDF version of this open letter here.

Desplazarse hacia abajo para la traducción al español por favor.

22 June 2019

An Open Letter to the Governor About HB 370

Dear Governor Cooper,

The Durham People’s Alliance (PA) chapter and Political Action Committee (PAC) stand united in our strong opposition to House Bill 370, titled "Require Sheriff Cooperation with ICE." We urge you to veto HB 370.

The city of Durham stands united in opposition to HB 370. As an organization, PA recently co-signed a letter, joining more than 40 North Carolina organizations, in opposing this bill. Voters, immigrants, and allies are waiting to hear that you stand with us.

As you know, the Durham People’s Alliance (PA) is a grassroots organization that has been advancing a progressive vision for Durham and our state for more than 40 years. We believe a community can be more than a place where people live - it can be a place where all people live well. We work to elect progressive people to office and hold them accountable 365 days a year. Endorsements of our PAC have led to a City Council committed to inclusion and equity, and to a new District Attorney and Sheriff committed to reducing inequities in our justice system. Clarence Birkhead, our new Sheriff, ousted the incumbent by utilizing a platform that included ending cooperation with ICE. A politician who does not take a firm stance against HB 370 would not be aligned with our values and vision and would find it difficult to win our endorsement.

Forcing Sheriffs to honor ICE detainers is unconstitutional. Federal courts and judges across the country have found ICE detainers to be in violation of the 4 th Amendment. Moreover, it exposes sheriffs and counties to enormous liabilities. For these reasons and more, multiple sheriffs, including Durham County Sheriff Birkhead, have spoken out against HB 370.

We are very aware of the racial dynamics of this issue between black and white sheriffs as well: As you may be aware, five of North Carolina’s biggest counties elected new sheriffs in 2019. They all quickly cut cooperation with ICE. These sheriffs, now ostensibly targeted, are all black. Despite the fact that so many voters in North Carolina showed their support for ending cooperation with ICE, racism has taken center stage. We urge you to take a stand against racism and the equity issues embedded in HB 370.

Additionally, at a time when many law enforcement agencies are building and strengthening ties with disenfranchised communities, HB 370 will destroy the seeds of trust that have sprouted since the 2018 elections. We believe in creating safe, inclusive communities where no one is left behind, but North Carolina has experienced a 460% surge in ICE arrests, leading to thousands of detentions, deportations, and family separations since Trump’s election. It is time to say, "enough."

The Durham People’s Alliance, as believers in "… a just, equitable and inclusive community," strongly opposes HB 370. We urge you to stand with us and veto HB 370. We support all politicians who take a stand against this racist, cruel bill, and we look forward to the opportunity to vote, support, and endorse the politicians that take a stand today.


Signed,

The Durham People’s Alliance Board
The Durham People’s Alliance Political Action Committee

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