Residents displaced as Wilmington supportive housing development goes up for sale

Driftwood was established 16 years ago to help people who were chronically homeless and had disabilities
Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 4:42 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A Wilmington supportive housing development has announced it’s going up for sale.

Residents at Driftwood Apartments were notified on Jan. 4 that the buildings were going to be sold and they’d have to move out by the end of the month.

Driftwood was established 16 years ago to help people who were chronically homeless and had disabilities. It was a tax credit project, and after so many years, leaders at the nonprofit who manage the property say it couldn’t continue.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, this property is being sold. All tenants are being displaced,” a letter sent to residents stated. “We are working closely with the tenants to ensure that they are able to find adequate housing.”

Betty Bisbee, the executive director at Wilmington Housing Finance and Development, said tax credit projects normally have a lifespan of 10-15 years and over the last few years, the money they’ve collected each month for rent hasn’t covered all the expenses.

Wilmington Housing Finance and Development manages several supportive housing properties around the city. This is the only group of buildings up for sale because the nonprofit owns the other properties themselves.

Since they notified their 12 residents, teams have been working to find new places for them to live. It’s proven difficult, given the lack of affordable housing in the city and the income constraints of the residents.

Amanda Baker has lived at Driftwood for six years and says the news was difficult to hear.

“I feel pretty sad and stressed out. It’s like this was home...I never thought I would have to find somewhere else to live, I mean everyone around here feels like family,” Baker said.

Baker has lined up a new place to move, but many of her neighbors are still trying to get plans together, like Sharon Whitfield.

Brown moving boxes already line her apartment and her bed is already packed up. Whitfield is an Army veteran who’s lived in the space for nine years. When she left the military, she was homeless until she moved to Driftwood with help from HUD’s VASH program.

“I lived in my car for a while, I lived in homeless shelters and I don’t wanna go back to that. Right now I’m still working with my HUD VASH case manager to find a place, but the big problem is that there’s so few places that are even available right now and it’s not just about the cost of it --it’s about just the fact that there arent places that are even available,” said Sharon Whitfield.

The options that do exist have waiting lists – an obstacle difficult to overcome on such short notice.

“I’m trying to be optimistic about it, but at the same time I’m very nervous and of course I’m not sleeping at night because I don’t wanna be homeless again,” added Whitfield.

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