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Senior apartments ease housing shortage

AHOSKIE n Members of Wactor Temple AME Zion Church beamed with pride with the 2000 opening of the Wactor Gardens senior citizen apartment complex off Ahoskie's Catherine Creek Road.

Those smiles were evident again here recently.

During a formal groundbreaking ceremony on July 28, the Wactor Temple congregation along with a host of federal government, town government and other officials joined together to turn the earth for the second phase of the project.

Wactor Gardens II will provide 12 affordable one-bedroom apartments for very low income senior citizens in the Ahoskie, Hertford County area. The project, like the first, is funded under a grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

"Rural communities suffer with a lack of quality and affordable housing for senior citizens," North Carolina HUD Director Ed Ellis said. "We saw a good track record here in Ahoskie with the first phase and opted to award another grant for phase two."

Ellis said the grant application process is very competitive because it involves thousands of non-profit entities nationwide such as Wactor Temple.

"It's an extremely competitive process due to the number of applications we receive from throughout the nation," Ellis noted. "Again, this particular application was well-received by HUD because of our track record here in Ahoskie. This facility is managed extremely well."

According to Ellis, Wactor Gardens phase two received a development grant of $1.05 million plus an additional $173,500 reserved to cover rental assistance payments during the initial five years of the project’s operation.

Ann Huggins, representing local U.S. House of Representatives member G.K. Butterfield, said the First District Congressman was very supportive of affordable housing for senior citizens.

"He is very excited about this Ahoskie project, as he is for projects throughout his district," Huggins said. "He sends his congratulations to Wactor Temple for this project."

Under the direction of Bill Ogburn, Landura Management Agency oversees Wactor Temple. They will remain aboard for the second phase of the project.

Both Wactor Temple projects were pitched to Ahoskie officials by Rev. David Moore of Washington (NC), president of Metropolitan Housing and CDC, Inc. He has several projects in the Washington area, including a new one involving a senior citizens health clinic adjacent to an existing seniors apartment complex.

While Rev. Moore was appreciative of HUD for providing the grant for the Wactor project, he was just as thankful for the efforts put forth by the Town of Ahoskie.

"The town has bent over backwards to help us," Rev. Moore said, making reference to a problem with an old outbuilding located on the phase two site. "They took care of that problem at no cost to us. Mr. (Tony) Hammond (Ahoskie Town Manager) and Mr. (Bryan) Lewis (the now retired Director of the Ahoskie Public Works Department) were instrumental in helping us."

"We're thankful that we were able to help and move this project forward," Hammond replied.

Current Town Councilman Ronald Gatling said he was able to recall his younger days where he played in the area of what will be phase two of Wactor Gardens.

"I now see a great opportunity for affordable housing of our senior citizens," Gatling said.

Gatling went on to praise Wactor Temple AME Zion Church for their foresight to ensure that local seniors have nice apartments to live out their years.

Wactor Temple pastor, the Rev. Lynn Bolden, called the project, "a venture in faith."

Blue Ridge Construction of Mt. Airy will handle phase two. That same firm constructed phase one.

Like the first (an 11-unit complex that opened in 2000), phase two will feature apartments with one bedroom, a living room/dining room/kitchen area and a fully handicapped assessable bathroom. The units are energy efficient and are heated and cooled with a central unit.

Wactor Gardens residents share a laundry and commons area. There is also an on-site office staffed by the management firm.