published Friday, December 14th, 2012

Resident group seeks input on future of Chattanooga public housing

George Walker, third from left, speaks Thursdsay at the Harriet Tubman housing development about the newly formed CityWide Resident Council. Ieula McGhee, Joe Clark and Perrin Lance, from left, listen.
George Walker, third from left, speaks Thursdsay at the Harriet Tubman housing development about the newly formed CityWide Resident Council. Ieula McGhee, Joe Clark and Perrin Lance, from left, listen.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

WHAT'S NEXT

Chattanooga Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy McCright will meet with residents at 11 a.m. the Thursday before each CHA each board meeting. CHA's next board meeting is set for 12:30 p.m. Jan. 22.

Residents in College Hill and East Lake courts weren't included in a decision to sell or demolish the city's two largest public housing sites, and some don't even know they could lose their homes, advocates said Thursday.

"We're here today to say that things such as this should not have happened," said George Walker, president of the newly formed CityWide Resident Council.

"And we're going to do all we can to prevent this from happening again," he said.

The CityWide Resident Council's leaders say it was formed to represent more than 2,200 families living in Chattanooga Housing Authority sites. Its goal is to have more input into what happens to public housing and to oppose the demolition of more public housing sites.

Group members held their first news conference Thursday in front of boarded-up homes at the Harriet Tubman development. The 440-unit site was emptied this year after the CHA said it did not have the $33 million needed to repair the dilapidated units.

Walker said residents know some issues are beyond their control, but letting people know when their homes are in danger should be standard operating procedure.

Walker said nearly 1,000 people live at College Hill and East Lake Courts, which also are in ill repair. CHA has said the work will cost $50 million at each site, which it doesn't have.

"It's time to ask the tough questions because the residents should know what's going to affect their living quarters as well as their livelihood," said Walker.

CHA officials have said listing the sites in its 2013 Agency Plan for demolition or sale doesn't mean either will happen immediately.

And CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes and Executive Director Betsy McCright said they welcome questions from residents.

"We have nothing to hide," Holmes said. "Any resident has a standing invitation to attend our monthly meetings with our executive director."

McCright meets with residents at 11 a.m. on the Thursday before CHA's monthly board meeting.

CHA soon will start having meetings that will include residents, city planners and business people who can give input about what to do with the sites.

"There is nothing on the table. We haven't developed a plan," Holmes said.

State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, attended the news conference and commended the housing authority for its work. She said she hopes housing officials accept the CityWide organization "as an embellishment to what they [CHA] are doing."

"I represent most of the residents who reside in CHA units, and I am concerned that we have a dearth of affordable housing, especially within the inner city," Favors said.

"I hope the concept that's being presented, one unit to replace a unit of public housing that's demolished, I hope that will be followed as closely as possible."

Five public housing sites are listed for demolition or sale in the 2013 Agency Plan.

At the same time, 1,800 people are on the waiting list for public housing and nearly 5,000 are on the list for Section 8. More than 100 tenants with Section 8 vouchers couldn't find landlords who would house them.

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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