Cynthia Stanley Cash
A foreclosure sign tops a sale sign outside an existing home on the market in northwest Denver on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007. The U.S. economy will slow sharply this year and fall behind growth rates in most of the world, according to forecasts in a U.N. report released Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007. Woes in the housing market will drag U.S. gross domestic product for 2007 to a modest 2 percent growth, compared with 3.3 percent last year, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said in its flagship annual report. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Dorothy Jones has lived in North Brainerd for more than 30 years, but for the past two she’s lived next door to a boarded-up community eyesore.
“People pass by and throw trash there,” she said about an empty house sitting near the corner of Jeanaga Trail and Wilcox Boulevard.
The home is one of more than 150 properties in the North Brainerd community that have been vacant for more than 90 days, said Beverly Johnson, administrator of the Chattanooga Neighborhood Services Department. Some of those homes also are among 110 that have been foreclosed upon in recent months in the North Brainerd/Woodmore neighborhoods, the highest number of foreclosures in the city, she said.
City officials hope a $2.1 million federal grant may get rid of the boarded-up, vacant homes in those neighborhoods and several others hard hit by the recent subprime-foreclosure wave.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Grant, distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will help the city buy and renovate or demolish such empty homes, according to a Tennessee Housing Development Agency news release.
Having numerous foreclosed or abandoned properties in a community can lead to blight and crime, city officials said. North Brainerd Neighborhood President Cynthia Stanley-Cash, for instance, said she is concerned that homeless people will become squatters in the vacant properties.
“Squatters and transient renters do not invest in the community,” she said. “They’re nontaxpaying citizens.”
Other communities with high numbers of foreclosures and vacant properties include Clifton Hills, East Lake, Avondale, Glenwood and Orchard Knob, said Juliette Thornton, the city’s assistant manager of community development.
Released this week, the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies report on housing in the Chattanooga region stated that 1,014 foreclosures occurred in 2007 and that most occurred in places such as North Brainerd and East Chattanooga, where there were also high numbers of subprime loans and complaints about overgrowth.
For the Neighborhood Stabilization Grants, HUD ranked the communities depending on their number of foreclosures or abandoned houses and their number of high-interest mortgage loans, according to Neighborhood Services officials.
No grant money will go to individuals who are in the process of foreclosure, Ms. Thornton said. The purpose of the grant is to stabilize communities once foreclosures have occurred, she said.
“We’ve got a lot of calls about foreclosures, but it’s not for prevention,” Ms. Thornton said. “We can only acquire those properties that are foreclosed on and have been vacant for at least 90 days or abandoned or those that have not paid their property taxes.”
City officials submitted their stabilization plan this month to HUD. If it is approved, the city will have 18 months to send out requests for proposals from contractors to do the renovations or demolition and to allocate the money. Any money not committed must be sent back, Ms. Thornton said.
While it won’t help those in the midst of foreclosure, the grant requires that 25 percent of the money be used to provide assistance for low- to moderate-income residents to purchase a home, she said. Each resident who receives funding must go through at least eight hours of homeownership training by a certified home ownership counselor, she said.
Taking homeownership and finance classes may prevent foreclosures in the future, said Forestine Watson Haynes, executive director of the 28th Legislative District Community Development Corp.
“Education is key,” Ms. Haynes said. “There are several agencies that deal with educating the public about homeownership traps and how to maintain financing to avoid foreclosures, but people aren’t taking advantage of it.”
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...