Despite concern from some public housing residents, the Chattanooga Housing Authority Board has approved plans to relocate Harriet Tubman residents and tear down or sell the development.
The CHA will submit its plans to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval this week.
“It’s not that [relocating people is] a good thing, but it’s a necessary thing because we can’t maintain the site,” housing authority board Chairman Eddie Holmes said. “It’s a necessary thing, because no one should have to live in those conditions.”
The East Chattanooga development, built in 1953 and 1963, has significant problems including roof leaks, severely deteriorated doors and windows and an outdated clay sewer system that is collapsing in multiple locations, according to the housing authority’s Harriet Tubman plan for phase-down and disposition.
Holmes said he expects an answer from HUD concerning the site’s proposed sale or demolition within the next three months.
“Nobody wants to live in a dump,” housing authority Commissioner Wilbert Roberts said. “If we can’t get money to fix it up, then we’re left with no choice.”
Commissioner Connie O’Neal said she hopes authority officials work hard to provide support to residents as they transition from a place they have lived for a long time.
Housing authority Executive Director Betsy McCright said authority staff members at Tubman will not lose their jobs as result of the relocation.
The authority’s most recent physical needs assessment stated that about $33 million is needed to put the site in good condition. CHA’s flow of capital funds from HUD is inadequate to address the needs, according to the authority’s plan for phase-down and disposition.
Of the nearly 440 families at Tubman, 90 people participated in a survey and/or video presentation expressing their feelings about the proposed relocation. Of the 90 residents who submitted responses, 11 percent want the site to remain. About 89 percent want the property rebuilt, according to Bijan Dhanani, senior fellow at Create Here, which conducted the survey and video presentation.
He said about 59 percent of residents believe others have discriminated against them concerning the relocation.
Residents will have the option to use Housing Choice vouchers or be relocated to any public housing site. The most vacancies are available at the housing authority’s three largest sites, housing officials said.
Those sites are the Emma Wheeler Homes, College Hill Courts and East Lake Courts.
Sharon Glover, a Harriet Tubman resident of 10 years, said she doesn’t have a problem with the proposed resident relocation.
“You have to accept and go on,” she said. “Look at how long it’s been up there; 1953, that’s a long time.”
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 ...