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‘Choice is a luxury’: Dosker Manor residents prepare for relocation

Dosker Manor resident Marielle Atkins outside the complex's 'A' building.
Divya Karthikeyan
Dosker Manor resident Marielle Atkins outside the complex's 'A' building.

As Louisville’s housing agency presses ahead with a plan to demolish Dosker Manor, many residents are relieved. Some are nervous about where to go next and how the city will execute its plan.

Louisville Metro Housing Authority officials continue to support the demolition of the Dosker Manor complex. The buildings have over 650 units and more than 300 residents. They’ll all have to relocate to new homes.

According to LMHA’s relocation plans, the A building residents will take first priority. They will start with residents who volunteer to leave.

Donald Gray moved into Dosker Manor’s A building close to a year ago.

The A building has been in disrepair for years – riddled with bed bugs and mold, contending with regular maintenance issues and lack of security.

The complex has failed annual federal inspections multiple times.

Gray said he’s relieved to move and thinks demolishing Dosker Manor and relocating residents is the best option.

There were murmurs among residents for a year about possibly relocating, until the official notice came last week, he said.

“It’s beyond someone’s help,” Gray said.

Dosker Manor resident Donald Gray.
Divya Karthikeyan
Dosker Manor resident Donald Gray.

Gray said he doesn’t mind moving to another LMHA property, but he worries about overcrowding and crime.

Like many of his neighbors, he’s not sure he would have a say in his next move.

"I mean, for people who are in low income choice is a luxury, you know?" he said.

“When you displace people, when you leave people homeless, when you leave people fighting for crumbs in a situation where crumbs aren't available…this is what happens,” he said.

Most people who live in the complex are seniors or disabled, or both.

“Ready to leave”

64-year-old Marielle Atkins greeted security as she fought gnats away from her face, pushing her wheelchair. She tried to avoid a pool of liquid detergent leaking from the nearby laundry chute.

Atkins said she’s had rats and mold in her apartment for a long time, and her asthma probably got worse as a result. When she heard about the relocation plans last week, she was “ready to go.”

“I’m scared to do anything here. I’m trying to get my boxes and get ready to move, but that’s hard to do because I have a bad heart,” she said.

But Atkins has questions to ask at the upcoming relocation planning meetings. Under the federal government’s Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, moving, relocation expenses and “decent, safe, sanitary housing” should be provided to public housing residents.

“I want to get out of here. I don’t care if they revitalize, refurbish, and I don’t care about these people. I just want away from here,” she said.

Dosker Manor, the affordable housing complex run by Louisville Metro Housing Authority.
Tyler J. Franklin
Dosker Manor, the affordable housing complex run by Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

The LMHA needs approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before it can move ahead on demolition and relocation plans.

Elizabeth Strojan is the Louisville Metro Housing Authority’s executive director and has been on the job for close to five months. She said she’s working on both HUD approvals and relocation, and that HUD has been “supportive.”

The decision to demolish the property, she said, came from decades of systemic failures and the need to address “deplorable living conditions, safety concerns, and inadequate supportive services for vulnerable residents.”

Strojan said selling the property was not an option, and that building new housing on and off site was ideal.

Strojan said she was committed to making sure Dosker Manor residents will not face an increase in rent and will receive comprehensive relocation support. She said relocation specialists would help with the process and she’d actively engage with residents.

The way forward

As for the plan to build new housing at the property, Strojan said she’s “exploring redevelopment options for the site in collaboration with partners.”

Strojan recognizes people are nervous about where they’ll go. She committed to making sure they have housing lined up before they relocate. She plans on creating a Section 8 preference for Dosker Manor residents.

“We're working on that right now. And we will be able to issue vouchers for folks at Dosker Manor with our existing authority,” she said.

A spokesperson with Strojan’s office said they would work to get Dosker Manor residents to the top of the Section 8 housing waitlist An official announcement on the demolition will be out in the coming months.

The first relocation planning meeting for Dosker residents is on May 22nd.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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