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A New Model for Affordable Housing: Durham Welcomes Willard Street Apartments

By staff
  | Oct 01, 2021

I can afford it. I absolutely love it … This is my home.”     

- Willard Street resident ReNée Valentine

Willard Street ribbon cutting

ReNée Valentine, one of the new residents in the Willard Street Apartments, cut the ribbon at the grand opening.

Yesterday, September 30, there was much joy in downtown Durham, NC as new residents, housing advocates and project partners celebrated the grand opening of Willard Street Apartments. This new community includes 82 units of affordable housing serving individuals and families with low or modest incomes, bringing affordability to an area where prices have skyrocketed. Beginning with the vision of local advocates, this high-quality housing located adjacent to the City’s transit center in the heart of downtown Durham is the result of collaboration among Self-Help Ventures Fund and DHIC (co-developers) with support from many other community partners.

“Willard Street proves that when a community comes together and serves all of its citizens, we can deliver more than just an apartment building. We can deliver homes,” said DHIC President Yolanda Winstead, quoting Durham Mayor Steve Schewel during remarks at yesterday’s ribbon-cutting.


The story of the advocacy and partnerships that made these new homes possible, plus comments from residents.

Affordable housing is scarce in downtown Durham, but the Willard Street Apartments provide more than an affordable shelter. First, they are located right next to Durham’s main bus hub, providing easy access to local and regional transportation. They also include services and amenities to boost quality of life for residents—free high speed internet service, a playground for children, beautiful artwork from local artists, and nonprofit dental clinic Local Start on the first floor that serves uninsured patients.

Willard Street Apartments in Durham, NC

The apartment complex sits on 1.25 acres of land, built over structured parking. The development was built on previously City-owned land that was vacant for years.

“The vision this represents is that we can have a racially and economically diverse downtown,” said Mayor Schewel. “This housing is an important step in our work to fight gentrification and create a truly economically and racially diverse community.”

Crystal German, president of the Center for Community Self-Help and a member of Self-Help’s executive team, was among those who recognized the early work of advocates from Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) and the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit.

“It is important to acknowledge the early leadership of groups like Durham CAN, who planted the seeds for this project several years ago,” German added. “These advocates saw an opportunity to help families who earn lower wages; they saw it in two acres of vacant City-owned land. Those initial seeds grew into this creative, complex project. Self-Help is honored to have been a part of making that vision of hope and promise become reality.”

German and other speakers also noted the key leadership of Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr., who served as the president of Durham Technical Community College from 1980 to 2007 and the vice president for Durham and Regional Affairs at Duke University from 2007 to 2018. Dr. Wynn was a strong champion for affordable housing but, sadly, he passed away in 2018 and did not live to see this project completed. The Willard Street Apartments Plaza is dedicated to his memory.

Plaque dedicating Willard Street Apartments Plaza to Dr. Phail Wynn

This plaque honoring the memory of Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr. was installed in the garden of the Willard Street Apartments Plaza.

To see yesterday’s events and hear remarks, go to DHIC’s Facebook livestream, where you can hear these speakers:

  • Yolanda Winstead, President of DHIC
  • Steve Schewel, Mayor of Durham
  • ReNée Valentine, resident of Willard Street Apartments
  • Vincent Price, President of Duke University
  • Crystal German, President of the Center for Community Self-Help
  • Michael Rodgers, DHIC Director of Real Estate Development
  • Reverend Herbert Reynolds Davis, senior pastor Nehemiah Christian Center and member of the Durham CAN strategy team.

You can also find more information about this project and this event in our media center, “Durham’s Newest Affordable Housing Development, Willard Street Apartments, Celebrates Its Grand Opening.”

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