Icezrine Petteway lived on The Strand during Hurricane Ike, when floodwaters rose more than than head high. Like so many others, her home at the Magnolia Homes apartment complex was flooded.
Hers was one of the buildings torn down after the storm with a promise that new units would be built. And hers was a home that sparked years of public fights and federal threats over funding, when not everyone agreed that Galveston’s public housing should be brought back.
Nearly nine years later, she’s living on the same street, in a brand-new apartment. She said she’s doing fine.
“It’s amazing,” Petteway said. “It’s different. It’s really beautiful. I like it a lot. I was born on this island and I’m not going anywhere.”
Petteway was one of a few dozen people to speak at Thursday’s celebration of the completion of the Villas on the Strand mixed-income housing development, in the 1500 block of Strand Street. The group included public housing residents, like Petteway, and dignitaries, like Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough.
The Villas, and its sister complex, The Cedars at Carver Park, in the 2900 block of Ball Street, include 145 replacements for the 569 public and subsidized housing units that were torn down after Hurricane Ike.
The construction of the mixed-income complexes, which are managed by McCormack Baron Salazar, were approved in 2013, after the Galveston City Council acquiesced to federal demands to build the housing or give back hundreds of millions of dollars in federal housing aid.
The Galveston Housing Authority broke ground on the developments in 2015.
On Thursday, Yarbrough lauded the “incremental progress” the city was making in recovering from a storm that devastated the island in September 2008.
“This is just another nail in the coffin of Hurricane Ike,” Yarbrough said.
Mixed-income developments are designed to work differently from the segregated public housing tenements that once stood at the sites.
The subsidized housing is indistinguishable from the market-rate units, which can start at $1,100 a month for a single-bedroom apartment. Families in the subsidized units have the same access to amenities — including pools, playgrounds and fitness centers — as market-rate renters.
The housing is meant to prevent the economic segregation that occurred in older styles of public housing.
The subsidized housing residents also have access to specialized programs, like job training and child care, that are meant to help them transition out of the public housing programs.
The Galveston Housing Authority and McCormack Baron Salazar made efforts to offer spots to the families that were displaced by the demolition of the former public housing sites. As of Thursday, 49 families had returned to the new developments.
Housing authority officials called the developments a “wonderful example of the power of collective efforts.”
There is still more work to do. More than 200 scattered site public housing units are planned to be built in Galveston to complete the return of the total torn down after Ike. The construction of the first of those units could begin as early as next month, according to the Texas General Land Office.
“We’re so close to being done here in Galveston,” Bush said.