McDougald Terrace residents, city leaders attend Sanders campaign event on housing in Durham

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Bernie Sanders was not at this event organized by his campaign, he's busy in Washington D.C. with the impeachment trial. But the Vermont Democrats sent one of his top surrogates to east Durham, who had been warned that if the campaign came to the Bull City, be prepared to talk about McDougald Terrace and provide some solutions.

Ashley Canady, the McDougald resident council president, was center stage at the event. Friday marked three weeks since Canady and her neighbors were evacuated in that emergency relocation over carbon monoxide. And it's just a day since they stormed a Durham City Council work session-- demanding the city do more to get them out of cramped hotel rooms and back home.

"We have mothers that have lost their jobs because they're in hotels. We have probation officers chasing our residents because they can't make meetings," Canady told the crowd gathered inside the auditorium at Holton Career and Resource Center.

And when the crowd got its chance to speak, some decried Durham city leaders' commitment to hold down the increasing cost of housing citywide.

Mayor pro-tem Jillian Johnson attempted to explain that measures like rent control are off-limits legally in North Carolina. The crowd only grew more impatient.

"If you have ideas for things that we could do in Durham to get developers to provide more affordable housing, that's legal in the state, I would love to hear them," Johnson said.

As many in the crowd jeered, one woman yelled back at Johnson, "That's your job!"

Friday's event was moderated by Sanders campaign national co-chair Nina Turner, a former state senator from Ohio.

Along with empathy for what residents have gone through this month, Turner laid out the Sanders plan to fix it, if elected.

It's a two-and-a half-trillion-dollar proposal, the campaign calls "Housing for All"-- including money to build 10 million permanently affordable housing units and $70 billion dollars to repair and build new public housing.

"You have to have a heart," Turner told the crowd about her experience touring McDougald Terrace Friday with Canady and other residents. "And you have to know, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., what happens to one directly happens to us all indirectly. And that we have to care about what happens to the resident of McDougald terrace as if it was happening to us."

Turner's message went over well in the pro-Sanders crowd, but community advocate Joy Spencer was still skeptical.

"I do not appreciate people, political campaigns, leaders of any sort, exploiting the current crisis that is going on here in Durham."

Thursday, the 270 McDougald families currently housed in hotels were told they would have to remain there until at least Feb. 7 -- while DHA contractors worked to address the carbon monoxide crisis and get the units repaired.

Friday night, the housing authority tweeted that residents will not be forced to pay rent at all next month because of the displacement.
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