Residents take Wilmington City Council to task over post-Florence housing shortage

The council chambers were full of community members at the Oct. 16 meeting.
The council chambers were full of community members at the Oct. 16 meeting.(WECT)
Updated: Oct. 17, 2018 at 12:21 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - In the weeks after Hurricane Florence, more and more people have found themselves displaced from their homes, many with only a few days notice, and they want answers.

Community members packed the chamber at Tuesday’s Wilmington City Council members, several speaking during the public information period, demanding answers — and help — from city leaders.

Over the weeks since the storm, several apartment complexes have asked residents to leave due to unsafe conditions.

“Many of the people from The Glen, Market North and the other complexes shut down, not to mention free-standing rentals, have no insurance, no credit, no vehicle no job, an now, no place to stay,” Wilmington resident Steve Lee said to the council.

Representatives from the New Hanover County NAACP and other advocacy groups sent representatives to speak on the behalf of minority and low-income populations that have been particularly affected by the post-Florence housing shortage.

“There is no room in the inn," said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the NHC NAACP.

Maxwell said her organization already had concerns about the lack of affordable housing in Wilmington, and those concerns were only exacerbated by the storm.

Daniel Green, a representative from FEMA, was called upon by Mayor Bill Saffo to speak during the public comment session. Saffo asked Green why so many people had been denied assistance, and when FEMA’s temporary and direct housing programs would be available. Saffo said to WECT in a previous interview that he was told it would be about two months before FEMA’s direct housing program, namely the “FEMA trailers” would be onsite.

Green said he couldn’t speak to when all of the trailers would be in place, but said that the program had been approved, and 21 interviews for the program have already taken place. He said 12,000 home inspections have been completed, and 49 are pending. Green also noted that the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is Nov. 13.

Some residents said they don’t think waiting on FEMA to send help is enough, and that the city should do something now for those who have been displaced.

Gabrielle Samuel, who is one of the residents of the Market North apartments, said she has until Oct. 22 to move out of her home. She said she has struggled to find a place for her and her children — her family members in the area are already housing relatives, and she needs to stay close to the school her children attend, and to her job.

Samuel said she thinks the city should open up some of the vacant low-income housing she says is available around the city.

She also wants the council members to put themselves in her shoes.

“What if it was you? What if you had kids, and you didn’t know where you were going the next day," she said. "It’s a scary feeling. and I don’t wish it on nobody. I really do not. It’s just sad. It’s just really sad and upsetting.”

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