NORFOLK, Va. — A small crowd of about 30 people gathered near Norfolk City Hall Thursday to protest on behalf of public housing residents on St. Paul's Boulevard.
With signs, tents, a speaker system and a bone to pick with city leaders, the protestors let officials know their contempt for a redevelopment plan at the public housing complexes on St. Paul's Boulevard that could potentially leave thousands of people homeless.
On Tuesday, Norfolk residents filed a lawsuit against the city, demanding leaders to put a stop to a project that would demolish all the public housing on that block and build mixed-income apartments in its place.
Plaintiffs claim the city is targeting poor, black families by forcing them to move out and leaving them with nowhere to go. They cite "perpetual racial segregation" as one of the points in their suit.
Officials made an early counter to the suit citing that some tenants will be able to move into the new complex and nodding to housing vouchers that could help them pay the rent.
However, plaintiffs already made note in the lawsuit that "landlords can legally refuse to rent to people with vouchers" and "finding housing in 'high opportunity' areas with housing choice vouchers is unlikely."
Delegate Jay Jones told 13News Now he understands these tenants' concerns. He says he helped pass a bill to give tax breaks to landlords in low-poverty areas who accept housing vouchers, which he says has seen success.
In Thursday's demonstration, protestors said this plan could make an impact so huge, it could force black people out of the community and out of Norfolk.
Lafeetah Byrum, a community organizer leading the demonstration, said all can agree that redevelopment is needed, but the 4,200 people who live in St. Paul's can't be left high and dry.
"For every one unit that's demolished, there needs to be another affordable housing unit built anywhere in the city," Byrum said.
Byrum said the group wants to work with the city, but so far, the city hasn't commented on the pending litigation.
Norfolk's Housing Authority was awarded a $30 million grant last year to use on completely redeveloping the St. Paul's quadrant.