John Foy of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise Inc. and other officials of the housing group meet with the editorial board of the Chattanooga Times Free Press
Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise Inc. is continuing to refocus its mission and searching for a new director to aid in that process, officials said Thursday.
“Somewhere in us trying to be all things to all people, I think we lost focus on the mission,” said Irvin Overton, CNE’s vice chairman, during a meeting with Times Free Press reporters and editors. “And the mission was, I think, to help the neighborhoods to be more sustainable and have a mix of income, people, ethnic diversity, business and all those things that would make a neighborhood stable.”
CNE officials are conducting a national search for an executive director to help the agency steer a new course.
Interim Executive Director Sandra J. Williams took the agency’s helm last summer on a temporary basis, said board Chairman John N. Foy.
CNE hired Isaacson Miller Inc., a Boston firm, to find the director, which should take four to six months, Mr. Foy said. The director’s salary will be $80,000 to $100,000, he said. The Boston company is being paid $25,000 to conduct the search, he said.
After he was elected, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield began moving CNE back toward its original goals of promoting affordable homes and providing homeownership education. Critics said the organization had left its roots by promoting market-rate downtown housing. CNE also drew fire from various builders who said the agency, which receives public funds, was competing with them.
Ms. Williams said that, as part of its new mandate, CNE began trimming its staff from a high of 56 workers to a current level of 19 workers.
The public-private agency still is trying to rid itself of affordable-rent apartments that lost CNE millions of dollars, Ms. Williams said. CNE has 200 rental units on its books, many through partnerships with other companies, she said.
BY THE NUMBERS
* 3,400: Number of people CNE has helped buy a home
* 2,800: Number of homes that CNE has rehabilitated
* $16,000: Average loan amount that CNE makes available to home buyers
Source: Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise
The agency’s new mission calls for it to make second mortgages to help low-to-moderate-income people buy homes, to issue loans helping people renovate homes and to educate homeowners about issues such as financing, maintenance and foreclosure prevention, officials said. The agency has made 22 residential loans this year and has seven more loans pending, they said.
CNE once took the lead in building clusters of homes in targeted neighborhoods to create a critical mass of homeownership. Now, however, the agency is content to work with other nonprofit agencies as a partner, not as the leader, Mr. Overton said. That change resulted from feedback received from a number of meetings with neighborhood associations, he said.
Agency officials want to regain the trust of the public, banks and others, which was hurt when CNE lost track of its mission, Mr. Foy and Mr. Overton said. The agency plans to communicate better and be more transparent in its future operations, Mr. Foy said.
With a new director and increased trust, CNE can seek new funding opportunities, he said.
Video: Building better neighborhoodsAt a Times Free Press editorial board meeting on Thursday, executives from Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Inc., discussed the agency's plan to refocus on developing "sustainable" neighborhoods with residents representing different income levels.