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North Little Rock housing officials hope that using private contractors to renovate public housing -- set to begin this year -- will enable repairs to eight properties that have built up $90 million in postponed maintenance.

The North Little Rock Housing Authority decided to participate in the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program in 2012. Officials started planning and talking to residents about the change then, said Shanta Nano-Barro, the special-projects director for the housing authority.

"It will mean higher, better quality of life for our residents," Nano-Barro said.

Renovations will include upgrades of plumbing and electrical systems, refinished parking lots and new elevators. The interiors of households will be modernized and made more energy-efficient, and accessibility will be improved.

Silver City Courts at 701 W. 18th St. will be demolished and rebuilt.

Nano-Barro said she expects construction to begin this year and to take close to five years to complete work on all sites.

North Little Rock has the oldest housing authority in the state, and some of the buildings were constructed in the 1940s, she said. The agency gets about $1 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development each year for maintenance.

The renovations will save the agency money in the long run because repairing older buildings can take more work and might require supplies that aren't produced anymore, Nano-Barro said.

"You can imagine the financial impact," she added.

HUD funding to housing authorities has declined for years, contributing to the disrepair of many public-housing facilities across the country. The Rental Assistance Demonstration program is designed to overhaul broken-down buildings by partnering with private companies and turning over day-to-day management of the apartments to private firms.

The developments no longer serve as traditional public-housing projects, instead becoming part of the Section 8 program, which gives each tenant a rental voucher. Tenants pay 30 percent of their incomes to rent under the program.

North Little Rock has partnered with River City Builders Inc., a Shreveport group, and Unicorp Construction, which is based in Mississippi and works in 10 states in the Southeast.

In North Little Rock, the eight properties that will be renovated have 912 households, and total estimated costs are about $139 million. The properties included in this estimate are Silver City Courts, Windemere Hills, Eastgate Terrace, Heritage House, S.W. Bowker House, Willow House and Campus Towers

The eighth property, Hemlock Courts, is still in the application phase, so details about cost and what renovations will occur weren't available.

Some residents will be relocated during the renovations, but none will be displaced, Nano-Barro said. Twenty-four tenants have volunteered so far to move temporarily.

"We are not displacing anyone, and that's the first thing that we do tell anyone," Nano-Barro said.

The start of the program for North Little Rock comes as the Metropolitan Housing Alliance in Little Rock is wrapping up the first stages of its similar conversion to the rental-assistance program. The Little Rock agency staged a ribbon-cutting for the first phase of its three housing towers.

The Little Rock housing authority raised about $70 million for its first three projects, and on Friday, its board voted to allow Gorman & Co., the Wisconsin contractor that worked on the towers, to start planning construction on a fourth property -- Sunset Terrace.

Metro on 02/24/2019

Print Headline: Repairs lined up for North Little Rock housing; U.S. funds to aid projects at 8 sites

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