A ‘House of Cards’ – Tarboro Street Housing – Mr. Blackwell’s Rebuttal Has It All Wrong


“House of cards” is an expression that dates back to 1645 meaning a structure or argument built on a shaky foundation or one that will collapse if a necessary (but possibly overlooked or unappreciated) element is removed.


It is all the more apparent after last night City Council meeting and Mr. Blackwell’s rebuttal to the public comments, that he and I don’t agree on how to solve our affordable housing needs. There is no argument about the necessity to have this housing, but what type and where? If we can agree that no one is against affordable housing, we should be able to discuss how best to provide it. Especially now that I have calmed down. I left the  council chamber disappointed that the doors didn’t slam behind me in some dramatic flourish so people would say, “Stepheny’s ticked!”  Among other unexamined ideas, according to Mr. Blackwell, this housing will bring people who will spend money downtown on what I presume are our restaurant’s, shopping, coffee, and wine shops, et. al. To try and sell the Tarboro Street housing as an economic boon for downtown is quite a reach when this population lives on a limited budget. We must have people living and working downtown. Investors are at work converting some Main Street commercial buildings into apartments to live above the store. I acknowledge how important this is to the success of ‘Main Street’ revitalization. Thanks to the City Council, who voted February 25, 2019, to convey the Tarboro Street property via sale or lease, for the development of affordable housing contingent upon the selection of a qualified developer, we have the wrong solution in the wrong location. So, WAIT JUST A DARN MINUTE.

We already have established neighborhoods calling for preservation and restoration that would welcome new people. It is essential to maintain the quality of neighborhoods and improve those that are stressed. Do the people who have lived in these stressed conditions not deserve the same concern and help? They are low income/workforce people already in place. We have plenty of neighborhoods facing challenges related to general property upkeep and maintenance. Let the City Council and Management start with aggressive code enforcement and put on notice any landlord to pay a fine that is ignoring his or her housing stock. Help our investors with streamlined paperwork who are already buying affordable housing that will offer affordable ownership possibilities. Why aren’t the city councilman, where it pertains, as concerned about their impoverished areas where people are living in terrible conditions yet considered part of our low-income workforce population? Is it because there is no money to be made in considering other measures to improve the overall quality of these areas. No grant administration fees or under the table kickbacks? Does it keep our statistics depressed, which helps when applying for grants?

I am dumbfounded that cluster houses on Tarboro Street are DFI’s final recommendation when research shows across the board that this notion, left over from the ’70s, isn’t successful. Research indicates the high probability of creating another transient neighborhood, which invites crime and plops people into a contrived setting. Do we even have a waiting list for housing with people that qualify? This Tarboro Street project, based on the trend line, is another opportunity for skullduggery. It is not the best solution for this population. The revitalization of our neighborhoods will benefit from the energy new neighbors will bring. We want our singles, couples with or without children, those retired and the elderly living in affordable housing in recovering neighborhoods that are once again safe; everyone looking out for one another as in the days when these neighborhoods were formed. That’s what we need and this is what we shall have! As I said at the information meeting on the Tarboro Street housing,  thank you for all your time on this project, but this is not happening!  


13 thoughts on “A ‘House of Cards’ – Tarboro Street Housing – Mr. Blackwell’s Rebuttal Has It All Wrong

  1. As has been said many times before, “follow the money” or in this case the promise of easy money. My main gripe with builders/developers in general is that too many don’t care about what they create, just how much money they make and how fast. Of course, this does not apply across the board to all builders/developers.


    1. How this housing project can go forward until the investigation of “following the money” is complete defies logic. You get it and so do I. A vote of no confidence for this current council/leadership could bring an end to these shenanigans. Thanks for leaving your comment.


  2. Stepheny, It was such a pleasure meeting you last night at the council meeting, as we waited for the storm to subside. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Mr. Blackwell’s comments. I know nothing about “Housing”, (but I want to learn and that’s why I have started attending the council meetings, to watch, listen, and learn) but his comments sounded a little far-fetched to me. I also appreciate Rodd’s comments above. I will be visiting the grants website he provided the link for. Thanks again Stepheny, hope to see you at future “Housing” meetings.


    1. I don’t think you and I qualify for a Tee shirt that says I survived the threat of the storm, do you? Walking down the three flights of stairs is a no never mind, but I’ve walked UP a number of times with the elevators out and think we deserve tee shirts for that. I’m beginning to feel that the best thing about the Council meetings is all the new friends’ everyone is making. Like Stepheny and Anita, right?! Delighted you are drawn to further information about grants. I hope your research is fun. Before you know it this Preservation learning curve, saving Main Street, the need for strong voices in chorus insisting on good governance will prevail. We need strong leadership with the moral courage to do the right things for Rocky Mount. I will see you next time.


  3. If the leadership in Rocky Mount is truly serious about wanting to revitalize the downtown area then the last thing you want is a transient population. You want you young Professionals that would be looking for loft spaces over cute shops and restaurants. Once they get home they want to be able to park their car and walk to nice places to eat and relax for the evening and these do not include ladies of the evening. Possibly a street over you might have some smaller family starter home or duplex nowhere in this whole look do you want LOW INCOME HOUSING. There are Plenty of places in Rocky mount to chose from Go toward the old arts center, Raleigh Road area. Do a beautiful set of low income apartments over there. There is grocery stores and transportation close by but it isn’t prime real estate.


    1. Debra: I am grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts about this low-income housing project. Lending your voice to a situation that is the wrong answer and cannot be considered a done deal for all the reasons you mention. I appreciate you have another suggestion for this housing. Please keep me company adding your thoughts to this blog as you are moved to do so. It’s like finding a new friend at the end of the rainbow helping to save Main Street. THANK YOU!


  4. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom, and clear mind. It stresses me, to see that those in ‘power’ are not suitable stewards.


  5. Read below to understand the Federal Government’s stance on Grant Fraud. Notice it is called lying, cheating and stealing by the Department of Justice.

    Here is the link to the article below. Once there—check out the additional resources. If you are an employee of the city you can report the fraud and abuse of funds. And, you should otherwise you are complicit.


    Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars are distributed in the form of federal grants to universities, local governments, organizations and individuals.
    The vast majority of these funds are spent as intended, but misuse, deceit and abuse are nonetheless present. As a result, hundreds of thousand dollars go to waste.
    Fraudulent behavior can take the form of embezzlement, theft, bribery or false claims and statements. Such violations of federal law are difficult to flag without the help of individuals inside the grant community.
    Learn how you can help to stop fraudulent behavior and, thus, strengthen the integrity of the federal grant system and increase the overall efficiency of the government.
    What is grant fraud?
    Grant fraud typically occurs when award recipients attempt to deceive the government about their spending of award money. Such behavior amounts to “lying, cheating and stealing,” according to the Department of Justice.
    • Learn more about the responsibilities of entities that receive federal grant funds.
    What is a grant scam?
    The allure of so-called “free money” from the federal government has enabled scam artists to prey on people’s hopes by promising access to grants – often for a fee. Federal grants are rarely awarded to individuals seeking personal benefits and applying for a grant is completely free.
    • Learn how to sniff out a grant-related scam.
    • Read the latest grant scam alerts.
    What are the costs of grant fraud?
    Besides triggering lost efficiency and waste in the government, grant fraud can also have a significant impact on entities found to have carried it out. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General warns that consequences can include “debarment from receiving future funding, administrative recoveries of funds, civil law suits and criminal prosecution.”
    Who is responsible for monitoring fraudulent behavior?
    Federal Inspectors General (IG) within each government agency have been established as independent and objective units tasked with combating waste, fraud, and abuse in their respective programs. When fraud is suspected, other government entities, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, may get involved.
    • To report a suspected instance of grant fraud, contact the IG within the appropriate agency.
    How can grant fraud be stopped?
    Only with your help! The front line of defense against fraudulent behavior in the grant community includes accountants, auditors and other award recipient personnel.


  6. Where do you propose to rebuild these “safe” communities and who reside now in these communities?


    1. I’m counting on you because this is your area of expertise and experience. You have been working on our housing and helping people find places to live. Lea Henry is another who has given her working life to this area – housing – My whole point is we have housing! Housing that needs saving as you are doing one by one. You already know many of these neighborhoods and who lives there and if it is near a school, etc. We don’t need UNC telling us what we need. People like you have been working in the vineyard trying to do something about it. Can’t we agree that putting people in neighborhoods has a better outcome for everyone? Cluster housing on Tarboro Street, on a brownfield, sounds like the City Council and their favorite partners are up to what’s best for themselves disregarding what their Wards need, which is a change in leadership. Help me with this Mr. C. You get it, at least I believe you do. Affordable housing is what you have been involved with these many years.


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