Bishop Roy Lee Kossie says he and others established the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church on Benson Street in part because it was at the heart of a high-crime Fifth Ward neighborhood. “This is where the Lord called us,” Kossie said in a statement. The church, which has served the neighborhood since 1965, won't leave without a fight, he says.
The Latter Day church and the nearby First Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church have sued the Houston Housing Authority over its plans to buy – and, if they're not selling, take through eminent domain – the lots and demolish the churches to build an affordable housing project, library and medical facility in the neighborhood.
HHA's plans to build a 63-unit housing project would replace apartments the housing authority demolished at the Kelly Village apartment complex that had been damaged during Hurricane Ike. The authority's plans for the neighborhood — which include buying up two other lots near the church properties — were based on a studies by the Fifth Ward Redevelopment Corporation, according to the Houston Chronicle. “We are trying to build decent, safe, affordable, but modern housing,” HHA president and CEO Tory Gunsolley told the daily.
The right-leaning Liberty Institute filed the lawsuit on behalf of the longstanding Fifth Ward churches in federal court Tuesday.
According to the lawsuit, HHA first made offers to buy the church properties on Benson and Lyons back in early March. However HHA reps, the churches claim, made sure to mention that they have eminent domain power and would condemn the properties if they wouldn't agree to a sale.
Last month, HHA made its final offer to buy the Latter Day property, but church leaders still weren't selling. So HHA sent an appraisal report and a threat to go ahead with the condemnation process. It appears HHA reps haven't yet made a final offer and threat to condemn the First Christian church property.
The churches have filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent HHA “from pursing condemnation proceedings or taking possession or title” of the church properties.
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The Liberty Institute has produced a video highlighting the church's fight with the housing authority.
You can read the lawsuit below: