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HUD officials meet in New Bern, talk housing plans

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NEW BERN, N.C. - A community in need gets action. For the first time in years, federal housing officials visit the New Bern Housing Authority complex to talk future projects. 

In November, the housing authority received $400,000 from the U.S. Housing Urban Development Agency to turn the Five Points area around. 

Peter Behringer of Community’s Group said, “This is the kickoff, if the housing authority and city had not been successful in competing for that planning grant, the folks from HUD wouldn't be here.”

HUD officials talked strategy. They want to understand the needs of the community and come up with a plan to revitalize it. “We want housing that is not in an area that's going to continue to flood, and we want everyone to feel comfortable and in a safe environment with proper security,” New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw said. 

Sherri Midgett a resident of Craven Terrace says some of these apartments are 70 years old and wants better for her community. 

“They've been neglected, some have been abused and it's just wear and tear down through the years,” Midgett said. 

If all goes to plan, the city could win up to 35 million from the feds to revitalize the area.  But the competition is stiff. More than 20 cities could be competing for the same pot of money.

“We need this money; we need this money more so now than we did years ago,” Midgett said. 

Staff says the city and housing authority will need to contribute also; it’s in the ballpark of a 4 to 1 ratio which means that New Bern could have over 100 million dollars for redevelopment.

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More jobs, education, and health care opportunities could one day be coming to one of New Bern's most depressed neighborhoods.

For decades, the community of Five Points has suffered from a lack of economic activity.

But now the federal government is throwing its support behind the New Bern Housing Authority's plan to turn the community around.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving a $400,000 grant to the New Bern Housing Authority.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield presented the ceremonial check Tuesday in New Bern.

"These communities have been neglected and now they're in need of major investment," said Butterfield.

The NBHA says it will use the money to try to bring more jobs, education, health care, community services, and recreation to Five Points, as well as big improvements for two public housing units: Trent Court and Craven Terrace.

"I'm beginning to have hopes and dreams of a better neighborhood. It just overwhelmed me to see the check presented and everything," said Cheryl Reed, Trent Court resident.

Public housing residents like Reed are excited. But housing authority director Julian Marsh says the grant can only be used for planning. The agency has to apply for a separate grant to act on the plan.

"We don't want to have another plan in the system in the shelf somewhere. If the city is really going to turn around and go forward, there needs to be action with the plan," said Marsh.

The agency will use some of the money to hire consultants and staff members and pay for venues to hold planning events.

More than 100 units at Trent Court are in a flood zone.

Marsh says it will take some of the best and brightest minds to come up with a viable plan to possibly move the units somewhere else.

"We are talking New Bern, so there aren't a lot of places people can go. But it's something we must look into," said Marsh.

A total of 52 housing authorities nationwide applied for the grant. The New Bern Housing Authority was one of only nine chosen to receive it.
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