JOLIET – Residents at Des Plaines Gardens were receptive when told their homes were going to be demolished and they had to move.
“I look at it as an opportunity to be more independent – move to a bigger and better place,” said Nia Ervins.
Ervins was among public housing residents at a meeting Thursday with Housing Authority of Joliet officials, who told them of the latest news on plans to relocate residents and demolish 122 units at Des Plaines Gardens.
Residents attending the meeting appeared eager.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Ervins said.
Ervins and others are getting Section 8 vouchers, which allow them to move wherever the voucher is accepted as long as they can afford the rent. The Section 8 vouchers are not easy to get, and Ervins said she has been trying for years.
While Des Plaines Gardens has supplied housing for Ervins and others for years, some residents said they will have better options with Section 8 vouchers.
HAJ Chief Executive Officer Michael Simelton told the residents at the start of the meeting, “I have good news, and I have good news.”
Residents applauded when he told them that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had approved demolition.
The plan to replace most of Des Plaines Gardens, a 162-unit apartment complex built in the 1950s, with a development of single-family houses and townhomes to be called Water’s Edge, has been in the works for a couple of years.
This was not the first meeting on the plan, so residents have been preparing to move. And, there did not appear to be much fondness for the housing complex along Des Plaines Street south of downtown Joliet.
“I’m very excited,” said Janae Datcher. “Apartments are no good anyway. It’s not really good living conditions. I’m ready to branch out of Joliet and start my new life.”
Cynthia Pitchford has been a Joliet public housing resident for 33 years. She lived at Poole Gardens before that apartment complex was torn down and replaced with Liberty Meadow Estates, a mixed-housing subdivision.
“I’m ready to go,” said Pitchford, who is taking classes at Joliet Junior College. “I’m trying to move closer to JJC. I still have another semester to go.”
Residents have six months to move. The plan is to begin demolition by March 2016.
When Water’s Edge is built, the Des Plaines Gardens residents will have first rights to claim one of the new units.
If they come back, however, they lose their Section 8 vouchers, HAJ Chief Operating Officer Mark Jakielski told them.
“Remember,” he told the residents, “with a [Section 8] voucher you have a right to move anywhere you want.”