published Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

CHA proposes demolishing seven sites

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    Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Sep 27, 2010 - College Hill Courts is a public housing site under the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Seven public housing sites that are home to thousands of Chattanooga’s poor would be sold or demolished under a five-year plan officials say is intended to clear the way for new and improved public housing stock.

In all, more than 1,600 run-down housing units — more than half the city’s inventory — would be razed under the Chattanooga Housing Authority proposal. Approval by the CHA board could come as early as today, though clearance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also would be required.

The CHA plan is in line with HUD-backed efforts nationwide to get away from large multifamily public housing sites that exclusively house the poorest of the poor, and move toward smaller communities that include public housing along with market rate rentals and privately owned homes and residents with a mix of incomes.

Whether the seven public housing sites would be redeveloped depends on the availability of federal funds, officials said.

If redevelopment does occur, it probably would take years, and even then would likely result in fewer available units for the poor, a CHA officials said.

That leaves Doris Conner with one question:

Where are poor people going to live?

Conner, a resident of the College Hill Courts public housing development, said she experienced the housing authority’s relocation plan about 10 years ago.

She was required to move from the now torn down Spencer J. McCallie Homes to the Emma Wheeler Homes in anticipation of the $35 million project that built the Villages at Alton Park.

When the new Villages units were completed, she tried to get back in but couldn’t because the waiting list was too long, she said.

Today, as then, housing officials say that displaced residents would be offered relocation assistance.

Housing officials assure residents that if CHA does receive funding for demolition, they will get a 90-day notice for relocation. The housing authority also would allow residents to move into other housing sites or offer housing choice vouchers to help residents relocate.

“The (relocation) plan is no comfort,” Conner said. “I didn’t get to live where I wanted.”

She said her new apartment in Emma Wheeler Homes was so roach-infested that she moved again to live near her son in Lincoln, Neb., for a year and “still had roaches in her clothes when she got there.”

She later relocated to College Hill.

Fewer units

A single person may make up to $31,300 and still live in public housing. A family of four may make up to $44,700. Residents pay a third of their income for rent and also have to pay for utilities if they exceed their utility allowance, housing officials said.

Today, CHA has just over 3,000 units of public housing — nearly 600 fewer units than it did in 1999 — as the agency has moved to smaller concentrations of housing, according to officials.

More than 200,000 public housing units across the country have been eliminated in the past 10 years, said CHA executive director Elizabeth McCright.

HUD has encouraged cities to create mixed-income communities as they carry out plans to revitalize their public housing stock, said spokeswoman Donna White.

“Mixing market rate rental units, privately owned housing and affordable housing can alleviate some of the intense isolation and poverty that was generally found in older public housing communities,” she said.

However, having less-concentrated public housing sites challenges HUD and communities to work together to find innovative ways to provide affordable housing, White said. Some new plans include rental vouchers and low-income housing tax credits to place people in private rentals, White said.

As CHA has decreased its number of public housing units, it has increased the number of Housing Choice Vouchers it offers. In 2000 about 1,450 people had vouchers, formerly called Section 8. This year that number increased to about 3,000 voucher holders.

Old housing

The soaring cost of maintaining an aging public housing inventory also has spurred efforts to redevelop. Some of the CHA units proposed for demolition or sale are 70 years old.

In 2007, it would have cost the city $36.2 million to address all the backlogged repairs needed in the 1,662 units now proposed for sale or demolition, CHA figures show.

“They’re deteriorating to a point where they are not safe any longer,” said Eddie Holmes, CHA’s board chairman. “We can no longer maintain them.”

CHA officials want board members to approve the plan at the housing authority’s board meeting today.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to immediately demolish the sites, but the potential is there,” Holmes said.

All 50 units of Steiner Apartments already have been approved for demolition and CHA plans to build 48 units in their place. CHA already has been allocated up to $250,000 in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds for the Steiner project, but seeks about $2 million in additional federal funds. The plan already has HUD approval.

Other sites proposed for demolition in CHA’s five-year plan include the agency’s largest and oldest sites: College Hill Courts, East Lake Courts and the Harriet Tubman housing development, McCright said.

Anita Pickett, for one, is all for revitalization. She said she hopes it happens for her Harriet Tubman community sooner rather than later.

“We have paid our taxes and dues just like people in Red Bank, Ooltewah or anywhere else,” said Pickett, 45. “We just happen to live in public housing. But we’re as good as anybody else and we want to improve our neighborhood.”

The buildings at Harriet Tubman are too old to keep patching up, Pickett said, and she’d like to live in homes like those at the Oaks at Camden or the Villages at Alton Park.

The Villages at Alton Park and Oaks at Camden, both CHA developments, are townhome-style housing instead of the red brick barracks-style at Harriet Tubman.

“We’re trying to poise ourselves so that, if the money comes through, we’re ready to go with it,” said McCright.

Contact Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Do you agree with the CHA's recent plans for public housing?

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: A public housing victory

about Yolanda Putman...

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 ...

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sandyonsignal said...

This is a terrible thing to do especially at this time. Displacing a couple thousand people during rough economic times is horrible. Where are they going to go? What happened to Mayor Ron's homeless shelter, the City already bought the polluted piece of land at a premium, why didn't they do the project?

How about maintaining what we have? And stop with new projects that cost so much and benefit so few.

September 28, 2010 at 7:04 a.m.
captainrt said...

I made far less than that and was going to school at the same time and I was able to find a place to live; did not need the government to hold my hand. A lot of people are in a bit of a rough patch but this is ludicrous.

September 28, 2010 at 7:20 a.m.
dao1980 said...

I had no idea that the allowable income was so high for public housing. Knowing that just breeds more contempt within myself for the lazy and those that that choose to be "dead weight" upon society. And the terrible thing is that our leaders are encouraged to coddle these types based on the fact that they are allowed to vote. Hey, if we all had no pride and desired to live off of handouts, than any aspiring politician could just by all the votes they needed...... wait, I mean uh..

September 28, 2010 at 8:40 a.m.
whatever said...

Tell you what, y'all go meet some of those people, and then speak.

Maximum limits BTW, do not represent an average.

September 28, 2010 at 10:01 a.m.
Newshound1 said...

how 'bout they move to Atlanta? I made less than $20k last year, with a family of 4.

Don't want a hand-out, don't need a hand-out.

BTW, I was born a Demacrat. I needed to be fed, clothed, bathed, and educated. I grew up and became a conservative Republican.

September 28, 2010 at 10:36 a.m.
Tax_Payer said...

I don't like subsidized housing projects. About a week about ago, I observed a news story about an elderly white man being racially harassed and had his personal property vandalized. If CHA housing could be more diverse, then I should consider changing my opinion on that matter.

September 28, 2010 at 10:57 a.m.
Tax_Payer said...

One more thing:

Section 8 rent vouchers are instrumental in avoiding such low income projects, and they can be used anywhere in the United States, so it is decentralizing impoverished citizens to live where they can and have better community options.

September 28, 2010 at 11 a.m.
captainrt said...

I have seen how some of these people live, my work took me into the deepest, darkest places and some of them are in very bad shape indeed. But a awful lot of them drive better cars than I have, have cell phones, HBO, big screen televisions and money for drugs and still blowing out kids. It's very hard not to become cynical when you read an article like this and know that you have played by the rules, worked hard and are borderline broke and yet still paying for this.

September 28, 2010 at 11:27 a.m.
WEBMAN said...


September 28, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.
softnotes37 said...

When it comes to using less of the world’s resources, we must. Change is hard for many but change can be good a good thing.

When stuff gets old and we now have new technology, you must use that technology for a better way of life.

We can not waste good ideas any longer. If it makes sense and the numbers looks right; then why wait?

September 28, 2010 at 1:27 p.m.
Observant1 said...


Did you just say in THIS office???

September 28, 2010 at 2:38 p.m.
whatever said...

Whatever...I have met some of those people. I made the mistake of stopping at a gas station across from public housing on my way to the Barn Nursery, and was asked by two different people if I needed drugs. Both crossed the street back into the projects.

My solution to that problem is end the stupid War on Drugs, but that'll probably make you unhappy. But me, I've never been offered drugs so I don't know about your experiences. I do know you can find those kinds of people everywhere though. Seen plenty of doctors who were high. Some while working.

In life, there are no absolutes, but stereotypes are based on truth like it or not.

A little truth can conceal a mighty big lie.

September 28, 2010 at 7:13 p.m.
NoMyth said...

In addition to these properties, Chattanooga actually should demolish about 1/4 of the residential property in the city...much of the existing housing stock is the equivalent of third-world standards. There are plenty of vacant properties to be occupied (and updated if needed).

September 28, 2010 at 7:21 p.m.
whatever said...

In addition to these properties, Chattanooga actually should demolish about 1/4 of the residential property in the city

How much like Detroit do you want to be?

Whatever...i'm against the war on drugs, so on that account, once again you assumed wrong.

I did say probably for a reason, because I did hold out the possibility of agreement on the subject. And I am glad you are against it.

Perhaps you're the one that needs to visit with the special people in the projects.

Been there, done that, found them much like people everywhere else. Some good, some bad. None of them offered me illegal drugs though.

September 28, 2010 at 7:42 p.m.
whatever said...

They're no more and no less typical than any other sub-group, from the penthouses and condos, to the backwoods cabins, to the suburban lawns...

If you want to be concerned that their plight is causing them and even the rest of society, some measure of harm, fair enough, but please don't make the mistake of condemning them out of hand.

September 28, 2010 at 8:01 p.m.
crimshaw said...

Have you ever driven by these homes and noticed no electrical meters in the meter base?

Have you ever driven by these homes and noticed the Comcast boxes for cable on these buildings?

Those of you that feel that they should remain, let's drive through there some night and you may feel differently after your tour.

There may be some good people in there but very very few.

September 28, 2010 at 8:13 p.m.
whatever said...

There are evil people, and there are people in evil circumstances.

September 28, 2010 at 8:17 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

That's the truth, wildman!

Maybe those posters here against public housing would rather have the needy live in the bushes outside their lovely homes.

September 29, 2010 at 12:22 a.m.
Newshound1 said...

These residents can do better, we aren't doing them a favour by "giving" them a place to "stay". Let them earn there way, or go hungry. Very soon, they'd straighten up, clean themselves up, stop shooting up, pull the pants up, sober up, and contribute like God intended them to. It's not a money issue, they are expected to fail. They have no expectations, and why should they, we give them food, phones, education, healthcare, and a place to live.

We need to demand more, they have the potential to be more, and need to be more.... Make them hungry and cold with no hope, and they will find hope in themselves and change the family tree for generations.

September 30, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.
FM_33 said...

The attack on the poor and needy was for told in the holy bible but the end of the wicked shall come fast like a bolt of lighting.

September 30, 2010 at 5:03 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Jesus you got the glory !

September 30, 2010 at 5:04 p.m.
vistro said...

If you think putting people in a position where they may go hungry or be homeless is an absolute way to change their behavior, you are dead wrong. The only thing that will you will force to happen is to have people survive by any means necessary which includes taking what you have. Many of the people who are commenting would see things differently if you were faced with similiar situations. Yes, there are many that must improved. But, do not place a wide net that includes all. It is sad and shameful that some of you speak such ignorance.

September 30, 2010 at 6:08 p.m.
whatever said...

The Spartan Way is only good if you want to be Sparta.

Most choose otherwise.

September 30, 2010 at 9:07 p.m.
xyzyra said...

Why do they always assign Yolunda Putman to write on subjects pretaining to African-American issues? And why does she always see fit to throw in a negative? Was it really necessary to quote the woman who claimed a certain housing community was roach infested just because she didn't want to live there in the first place. Ms Connor should be made aware there are roaches in some of the most affluent homes and apartments around. Otherwise, exterminating companies would go out of business. It's people like Ms. Connor and their mouths that gives people negative impression of people like her living in public housing, and which gives validation to those who which to tear down public housing altogether. The plan was never to allow most of the tenants of Alton Park to move back into Teh Village anyway. Out the hundreds that where displaced, some still homeless, at last count only about thirty were allowed to move into The Village when it was completed.

September 30, 2010 at 10:54 p.m.
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