published Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Chattanooga: New public housing units will require residents to be out in 5 years

Construction of Fairmount Avenue Apartments continues. Chattanooga Housing Authority officials expect residents to be positioned to move out in five years.
Construction of Fairmount Avenue Apartments continues. Chattanooga Housing Authority officials expect residents to be positioned to move out in five years.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
  • photo
    Ellis Jones, a public housing resident for four years and father of five children, hopes to move out of his house on Juniper Street and into the Fairmount Avenue apartments once the housing is complete. The apartments are available for those with intentions to move out in five years.
    Photo by Allison Carter.
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Fairmount Apartments in North Chattanooga might become the country’s first public housing complex where all tenants who are not elderly or disabled will be required to have jobs and also agree to leave the complex within five years.

Officials with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development office in Atlanta could not recall another public housing site with a closed-end rental agreement.

While it might be the first in the country, it’s definitely the first for the Chattanooga Housing Authority, which runs Fairmount Apartments.

“I know we’re going to push the envelope because it’s out of the norm for housing authorities to do that, but we’re making a commitment to prepare people to move out into self-sufficiency,” said Eddie Holmes, CHA board chairman.

As part of the application process, potential renters will be asked to sign an agreement that they’ll be self-sufficient — and out of the complex — in five years. If they can’t meet that goal, they must leave Fairmount, although they might be able to move into other CHA housing.

“We’re going to make that a part of our process so those individuals know upfront what’s expected of them,” Holmes said.

CHA officials said they expect to finalize the resident criteria for Fairmount within two weeks. The criteria will go to the CHA board, then to HUD for final approval, he said.

The five-year rental agreement is the latest tool in a multilayered strategy intended to transition away from traditional public housing sites with dense concentrations of residents, poverty and crime. The housing authority now has four housing development sites — Oaks at Camden, Villages at Alton Park, Woodside Avenue Apartments and Greenwood Terrace — where residents are required to have jobs.

Since the Villages at Alton Park opened in 2006, housing that requires residents to work accounts for more than 10 percent of public housing units in the city, CHA officials said.

To help families leave public housing, CHA has its Family Self Sufficiency program, which enables residents to put money that would have gone to rent increases into an escrow account. CHA officials agree to return that money to residents within five years. Residents may use the money to get market rate rental housing or purchase homes, further their educations or purchase cars.

The program already is active at other CHA sites; however, Fairmount will be the first where residents are required to participate, Holmes said.

“Public housing was not ever intended for people to reside forever,” said Connie O’Neal, a CHA board member and former board chairwoman.

Some residents, though, have called public housing home for more than 30 years and have established a generational cycle of dependency, O’Neal said.

“We may have created an environment where people are hopeless and don’t see that they can go anywhere else,” she said.

Fairmount is the only public housing site north of the Tennessee River, nestled in a North Chattanooga cul de sac where nearby homes range in price from $75,000 to more than $200,000. The apartments also are in the coveted Normal Park Museum Magnet school district.

The new complex at Fairmount is under construction and is scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2012, said Mike Sabin, CHA’s development manager. It is replacing 28 CHA units built in the mid-1970s and torn down in 2010 after becoming too costly to repair. The new units are designed to be energy-efficient enough to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design status from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Plans initially called for 48 units in the new complex but, after HUD awarded $4.8 million to build the units, nearby homeowners and the city protested, saying so many units would snarl traffic and attract crime.

More than a year of debate took place among CHA officials, residents and the city before a decision was made to scale back to 18 units. As a result, HUD reduced its funding to $3.9 million.

With that number of units, Fairmount also distinguishes itself as the city’s least densely populated public housing site. College Hill Courts, in comparison, has 497 units, while East Lake Courts has 417 and Emma Wheeler 340, CHA figures show.

Other complexes have far fewer units — Woodside Avenue Apartments, 24; Glenwood Heights, 29; and Missionary Heights Apartments, 44.

Housing officials said they are building smaller public housing sites in hopes of reducing crime and poverty. And instead of marketing its complexes as a place for the poorest of the poor, CHA seeks working residents who need affordable housing.

Ellis Jones, a resident of the 200-unit Cromwell Hills Apartments and father of five, said he’s interested in learning more about Fairmount and calls the five-year requirement an opportunity and a challenge.

“Five years is enough time to move out of public housing,” he said. “That’s enough time to get a master’s degree.”

Not everyone is convinced the five-year limit is practical, though.

Bonita Johnson said she’s in her 60s and exempt from the CHA’s work requirement because she is a senior citizen. But the resident of the Greenwood Terrace complex, which has 98 units, is concerned that, in a slow economy, the work requirement could prevent residents from getting apartments and meeting the five-year expectation.

“I don’t know if people can turn around in five years,” she said. “What do people do if they can’t get their footing fast enough and get out in five years?”

A recently hired family self-sufficiency coordinator at CHA will help residents prepare to leave Fairmount in five years, Holmes said. HUD awarded the housing authority $246,864 this month to hire three Section 8 program coordinators and the self-sufficiency coordinator.

Since 2009, 20 people in CHA housing have purchased homes, but most were Section 8 residents enrolled in the self-sufficiency program, officials said.

Contact Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.

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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rolando said...

Out in five years. Yeah, right. When pigs fly.

June 21, 2011 at 7:08 a.m.
patriot1 said...

I know couples who are working, paying taxes and delaying having a child until they can afford it.....and this guy pictured lives in government housing and has five? What's wrong with that picture?

June 21, 2011 at 8:54 a.m.
Humphrey said...

i think we should turn them in to soylent green and eat them.

June 21, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.
mrredskin said...

won't happen. 5 years will turn into 15, then 50. the housing will look like hell in 5 years anyway. basis for my arugment: every other public housing unit ever built.

June 21, 2011 at 11:36 a.m.
Livn4life said...

It may sound good but public housing just doesn't work that way. In a perfect world, jobs would be available galore and people would be willing to work even if it was not the best conditions. We are far from a perfect world. Guess who will be paying for all the beyond 5 year living? You probably guessed, taxpayers, no surprise there.

June 21, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.
t4change said...

Open your eyes. If it makes you feel better then go ahead and degrade people you've never met.

"...This guy pictured lives in government housing and has five? What's wrong with that picture?"

I know this man. He is by far the most responsible and hard working person I've ever met. You don't know his story nor do you know the children he takes care of or how they came to be his. Think before you judge patriot1. Mindless degradation perpetuates ignorance.

June 21, 2011 at 12:37 p.m.
dao1980 said...

t4change, do you live on my tax dollar as well?

There are so many of you that I can't hardly pay MY OWN bills after all of the "forced donations" are taken from my income every paycheck.

"Hard" working people are everywhere, some of us choose to pay for housing with our earnings, and avoid things that do not fit in the budget, like gold tooth's... and children before enough money is saved up to support them.

June 21, 2011 at 12:46 p.m.
t4change said...

Yes dao1980 I do "live on [your] tax dollar" if you want to get technical about it. I suppose if you want your tax dollars to be omitted from salaries then you should stop using police officers, the fire department, and teachers. We sure do love living the good life off of your taxes. The work is easy and the pay is great! Keep paying those taxes buddy!

June 21, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.
dao1980 said...

Well t4change... you said it.

Though I do agree with taxes being used for infrastructure, law enforcement, emergency services, etc.

Just not for sustaining groups of people whom are fully capable of supporting themselves, who are instead suffering as third and fourth generation welfare recipients... aka, job security for crooked politicians.

If you are in fact one of these unfortunate pawns of society as you claim, then you need to grasp the reality that you are not helping yourself to take a fish from another man for your daily survival.

You could in fact find a much happier self sustained existence if you would apply yourself in learning how to fish... (in the proverbial sense.)

You then would develop a sense of self ownership over your efforts, and all the benefit it affords you, your children, grandchildren, and so on.

Of course as I have already said, as a taxpayer, you will always be paying some percent of your taxes to support those who are much more comfortable being "free ride passengers" in life.

t4change, I'm glad we had this talk, I believe in you, you can do it!

June 21, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.
t4change said...

Dao, Thanks for the pointers. I hope you feel better about yourself now that you think you've helped someone. If you really want to help someone in need instead of blindly preaching to the internet, volunteer at a local public school and help educate the children of whom you speak so fondly. The school I teach at gladly accepts volunteer tutors and mentors. Most public schools in Chattanooga are in great need of educated folks like yourself to help end the cycle of poverty that is prevalent in our city. I'm sure the students would love to hear your suggestions and put them into practice. You could even start a fishing club! I hear the catfish in the TN River are quite tasty. Thank you for all of your help and wisdom.

P.S. If you would like for your tax dollars to be withheld from the county's education budget (aka my salary), please contact George Ricks Sr. at the Hamilton County Department of Education.

June 21, 2011 at 1:57 p.m.

@ t4change - I hope you know that your work is appreciated and I gladly give up taxes so that my kids can have good teachers. There seems to be a proverbial railroad track dividing the people. The poor, "urban" folk on one side and the rich "gated" folk on the other. Once they notice money going over the track into the wrong neighborhood, their way of life is being disturbed. And all they can ask is "Why can't they get a job?" would be nice if they could find one, wouldn't it? Why don't you just get rid of taxes and throw all the poor people, blacks and Mexicans into reservations in the wastelands like you did the Native Americans? Eventually, you will forget they even existed...

June 21, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
dao1980 said...

t4change, you know not where I do or do not volunteer. This is irrelevant.

Uh, your welcome?

Anyways, You had presented yourself as a non caring, flippant, welfare recipient, and I attended to you as such. I guess you lied, or I misunderstood, or both.

You seem to miss my point. "Ending the cycle of welfare" cannot be attained by continuing to enable and promote its rampant existence.

P.S. Education is included in "etc." with infrastructure and other obvious necessities. What it not included in this list of necessities is the redistribution of wealth from those who work to those who do not.. which is what we.. er, I am talking about.

Do not fear, your teachers salary is safe (relatively speaking) from any phone calls to Ricks Georges Jr.. or whoever the heck you are referring to.

June 21, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.
Jon8136 said...

While i somewhat agree that there is abuse with the Public Housing System(i grew up in Boone-Hysinger/Harriet Tubman and My Mom got a job and moved us out in 1988 after 22 years, she had five of us to raise by herself and i caucasian)still the majority of people that do live in public housing deserve it. They are trying to raise families and trying to better themselves. All you that are whining about taxpayer dollars, whine about about foreign people(not mexicans)coming over here and already has a nice house set up, a new car, and money loaned or given to them by the government so that they can open their own business. Or what about the government paying astronomical prices for stuff that they buy from companies which should only cost a fraction of what is charged.Or what about the Millions and Billions of dollars given to Countries year after year and for what? To have it throwed back in our face and spit on us as if we aren't helping them. Can't you see they want us at each others throat. Look at the Bigger picture. Change is Good, Improvements are good, but to knock people down because they live in public housing is a travesty against our own people-AMERICANS!!!!!!Wake Up and Fight the True Abusers of The System!!!!

June 21, 2011 at 2:27 p.m.
SeaMonkey said...

5 years..i don't think so....and they might as well make that into a skyscraper the way obama is screwing up this country. there're plenty of working poor in this country...who are doing every- thing they can to not end up living in public housing. how about giving them a huge tax break.

obama....obama lied and jobs died.

June 21, 2011 at 2:28 p.m.
SeaMonkey said...

i guess that's one way to get to live in north chattanooga. the houses there are so overpriced it's nauseating. i guess you either have to be very poor, or very rich.

$75 to $ the normal park area? i don't think so.....

June 21, 2011 at 2:59 p.m.
SeaMonkey said...

i meant $75,000 to $200,000

June 21, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
Leaf said...

Dao 1980 got pwnd by t4change. Ouch.

June 21, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
dao1980 said...

I think I can hear Leaf chanting "fight! fight! fight!"

Tell us what you think about the story.

Should we be spending money to build this new public housing complex?

Do you believe the 5 year max will be enforced?

June 21, 2011 at 3:24 p.m.

We People Darker Than Blue have duped you White Devils into paying our way...But don't take my word for it:

June 21, 2011 at 3:49 p.m.
Leaf said...

No dao, I'm not trolling; just making an observation regarding the beating you took. ;)

I actually favor distributed housing assistance over concentrated housing development projects. I think it's more humane and a better use of money.

Whether the five year limit will be enforced? I guess we'll know in five years, but it's a good idea. Nothing like a deadline to get people motivated.

June 21, 2011 at 5:12 p.m.
bpqd said...

There are quite a few WWII veterans who returned home to this area, and moved into public housing. Chances are that a bunch of you chickenhawk "moralists" who think you are in a position to tell us how people should be kicked out of public housing should probably consider that many of these units were first occupied by people who had crawled off of Omaha Beach.

My family members were one such group of people. Every generation of ours has served in wars this community has demanded since. Still, we hear nothing but selfish complaint from the privileged.

How disgusting.

I distinctly remember coming back home from my fourth war campaign to see and hear nothing but selfish, daily complaining from fat people about how others don't work. I noticed several instances of hundreds of people laid off, for profit, every time I came back home from war or training.

I see no one --no one-- doing a realistic job of employing anybody. No one.

I cannot characterize the deep disgust and shame I feel for people like some of you big mouths who waste your lives ridiculing the poor. It is just a shame.

If these people have to get out of public housing in five years, I dare every person in this city making over $100K a year to hire an employee, at full taxes, benefits and no less than federal minimum wage for five years.

I know you won't do it, because it is easier to insult others and complain after the Lazy Boomer generation has ruined the world's economy with a disgusting and habitual display of immoral selfishness and greed. Born into more privilege than any other generation on the face of the earth, they now provide us with more selfish complaining than anyone has ever heard.

We know we can count you out of a solution. We haven't seen you provide one, ever.

God help those poor people who live in our city's housing projects. I have been inside many of them, and every time I have visited I have been shocked at the callous disregard we show our own citizens, our own neighbors, who need basic help over basic matters.

June 21, 2011 at 5:56 p.m.
Legend said...

t4change. Very well said. If the picture wasn't of a minority, I doubt if there would have been all these negative comments. That's really what brought all the naysayers and ignorant bashers out of the closet. What they don't know is that Chattanooga Housing Authority has rent control apartments and condos all over the city and county. So that condominum or flashy apartment complex in your own neighborhood might just be owned by Chattanooga Housing Authority or HUD, and that neighbor or even some of you might be paying lesser rent than you'd normally have to pay because you're living in a rent control complex or condo. That's all public housing is rent control.

Yolanda, just to test, you should restructure your story and put a white face up instead of a black one and see how many negative responses you get. None to very few, I assure you.

June 21, 2011 at 8:18 p.m.
patriot1 said...

problem with jobs? just looked at and they have 6,368 listings for jobs, careerbuilder website has 1121 listings..

June 21, 2011 at 8:24 p.m.
Legend said...

bpqd, very well said. These bashers run in groups. Without the ability to feed off of one anothers hate and misery they wouldn't exist. They spend every ounce of their miserable existence coming up with new ways and ideas on how to hate. Hate, like acid, destroys the vessel that contains it.

June 21, 2011 at 8:31 p.m.
Legend said...

patriot1 said... problem with jobs? just looked at and they have 6,368 listings for jobs, careerbuilder website has 1121 listings.

Most individuals living in public housing are gainfully employed at fulltime jobs. Some have more than one job. The reason they might qualify for public housing is because, although they have jobs, they still often fall below the poverty line. An individual earning as much as 20K to 25K or even 40+K a year might qualify for government housing, or rent control housing, based on their circumstances. Don't assume that just because a person is living in public housing that they aren't employed or are receiving some government financial assistance such AFDC or some other government financial assistance.

June 21, 2011 at 8:38 p.m.
sangaree said...

Humphrey said... "i think we should turn them in to soylent green and eat them."

There is historical documentation that early English settlers to the Americas practiced cannibalism. One in particular, where the husband ate the wife. :O

June 21, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
rolando said...

Legend [in your own mind], in re your 8:18PM comment to t4change -- you, sir or madam or undecided, are a racist of the first water. Pure and simple, no doubt whatsoever. Just another race-baiter. Your real name isn't Farrakan [sic] or Jackson or Wright, is it?

I never read the article or scanned any photos before making my initial comment -- which was based on the headline and past experience. Which blows your racist theory out of the water.

So take your racist attitudes and comments and shove them. We neither need nor want them here.

June 21, 2011 at 9:40 p.m.
casolaj said...

First I would like to say that people who leave anonymous comments are cowards and more than half the time those that prefer to always remain anonymous will change their opinion depending on the company they are in when in person.

From what I have read it seems pretty obvious that certain media has done a good job making it seem like a greater percent of our hard earned dollars is going to welfare and public housing. In about 20 seconds I found a calculator based on the standard deduction. For those of you who make significantly more you can subtract since typically you have far more loopholes, tax breaks, and write offs.

Public and Indian Housing Programs: $85.16 (1.127%)

Social Security Administration: $1703.79 (22.553%)

Interest on the Public Debt: $1223.35 (16.194%)

Department of Education: $152.56 (2.019%)

Medicare prescription drug account, Federal supplementary insurance trust fund: $156.31 (2.069%) (who's getting this money?)

Department of Defense--Military: $1518.48 (20.1%) (yikes)

Supplemental for Global War on Terror: $182.23 (2.412%) (in addition to military spending)

I am not a conspiracy theorist but but it is indisputable that the rise in intergenerational poverty is directly related to the creation of purpose built public housing and assistance and I agree that with many that the disparity between the rich and the poor needs to decrease. this is old rhetoric.

Look at the percentages of where your money goes. 22% goes to old people.16% goes down the toilet to foreign lenders as interest. 2.5% goes to the war on terror which I doubt will go down just because osama's dead. only 2% goes to educating our nation. yes, more goes to terror. and finally a little over 1% goes to public housing and welfare assistance.

We focus so strongly on this because it is tangible, in our face, and distracts us from where the money is really being wasted. I am also by no means a bleeding heart liberal

June 21, 2011 at 10:40 p.m.
Jon8136 said...

"---If your brother is always asking you for money and refuses to work, do you keep giving it to him or do you kick the bum out?

It's simple as that. If you didn't earn it, you don't get to keep it. If you want to be Mother Theresa, do it on your own dime, not mine." No it isn't as simple as that. You are afraid to stand up to your Government and ask the Questions and research why they give foreigners an opportunity of a lifetime when they come to this country and at the same time when their own people need help they are thrown a few crumbs and expect to survive on that. I am finished with this. I will not engage with you Lib.4Freedom. You only want a voice thru me cause you did not address My exact points...Good-bye

June 22, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.
01centare said...

@"We focus so strongly on this because it is tangible, in our face, and distracts us from where the money is really being wasted"

Yes, the media is often bias and knows just how to "tweak" and play into the bias minds of the general public. If the powers want the masses to turn on the poor, they control the media and have them to turn the masses on the poor. If the powers want to turn the masses on a certain minority, regligious group? They use the media to turn the masses on that targeted minority or religious group. Hermann Goering had it right when he declared the powers can always get the masses to come around to their bidding. In Nazi Germany, the media was used to turn the people on a targeted group too.

June 22, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.
chattcat said...

And there goes the Normal Park school district. Why sacrifice to move in that area now? Forget it.

June 22, 2011 at 9:44 p.m.
gmomma said...

WOW! A lot to be said about public assistance. And for all the NEGITIVE comments from the taxpayers (@ least you have a job!) all ya'll are misinformed about the people that live in these 'camps'! I am a neighbor of Ellis Jones (YES, NEIGHBOR, in the projects!) and how dare you Mr. L4F, Dao and Monkey to ASSUME that all people on welfare or public assistance are getting a 'free ride'! No such thing even amongst the poor. And it was YOUR ancestors who helped develop these 'CAMPS' to keep the poor in 'their' place (poverty). You all are mean spirited and hateful people (& I use that term loosely) so go write another check to your Uncle Sam and SUCK IT UP!! Casola...Thank you for voicing so elequently the stats!!! And 01, you nailed that one!!

August 17, 2011 at 7:50 a.m.
eurekbennison said...

I think it is much better to relocate on a place where everything is low maintenance. Where the tax and loan sharks can’t find you. Anyway, it thinks 5 years is not that enough to earn money and find a 9 to 5 job? Hope that everything will go smoothly and things will be properly executed. Some of my friends was able to get a house at north park and I think lady luck was on their side. I do hope that I can buy my own house to. But in this stage na ah.

October 13, 2014 at 9:41 p.m.
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