Nonprofit housing developer CASA will turn a former Army Reserve Center on Carroll Street into affordable housing.

The Durham City Council unanimously voted to rezone the property Monday night. The  development will include up to sixty-five units and will be run by CASA, which acquired the site in July of 2018.

“What we’ll be developing first is sixteen units of permanent supportive housing serving households under fifty percent of the Area Median Income who’ve experienced homelessness,” Jess Brandes, CASA Director of Real Estate Development, said. (Fifty percent of the area median income is $28,250 for a single person and $40,300 for a family of four).

CASA is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide affordable housing to those on limited incomes, primarily serving people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities and veterans. Throughout the Triangle, residents of their developments pay a maximum of 30 percent of their income on rent.  

“What’s exciting is that we were chosen by the federal government to put in affordable housing,” CASA CEO Mary Jean Seyda said. “That’s really exciting to us, that this land gets to be used for such an important purpose for the community.”

The zoning change allows CASA to construct up to sixty-five multi-family residential units in phases on the five-and-a-half acre property. During a January 8 meeting, the Planning Commission recommended the rezoning unanimously, though some members mentioned concerns about increasing traffic in the surrounding area.

In addition to the traffic concern, the City Council addressed environmental concerns. As previously reported by the INDY, the former armory has been listed as a hazardous materials site and once housed an incinerator. Brandes acknowledged that the old structures contain asbestos and lead, but added that CASA will demolish them and take proper protocol.

The development, set to open in 2021, will become a part of the West End neighborhood, and though a few residents opposed using the land for affordable housing, Brandes and Seyda noted widespread community support.

“We were really grateful for all the community engagement that we had. I think it made for a better project,” Brandes said. “Overwhelmingly we received support from the neighbors and we really feel grateful to be so welcomed into the community.”

Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson lives in the West End and told the INDY she looked forward to having affordable housing in her neighborhood.

“Durham’s affordable housing needs are huge,” Johnson said. “And CASA is one of our best partners in providing affordable housing to folks who most need it. I think the development will be great for the people who live there because it’s so conveniently located.”

The Army Reserve Center opened in 1961 and ceased operation in 2012. In December 2017, the site was declared surplus property, making it subject to the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which prioritizes uses of surplus federal property that would serve homeless populations. Six nonprofit organizations applied to develop affordable housing complexes, and CASA was selected by the U.S. General Services Administration.

“What a great project,” Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said Monday night while introducing the agenda item. “We appreciate CASA and all that you do—you all are just a force for good.”