published Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Dogwood residents to relocate if CHA ownership is approved

Pedestrians enter Dogwood Manor at 959 Gateway Ave. on Tuesday.
Pedestrians enter Dogwood Manor at 959 Gateway Ave. on Tuesday.
Photo by Dan Henry.

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The Chattanooga Housing Authority commissioned a local architectural firm that recommended work totaling about $5 million to keep Dogwood Manor in good shape for about 20 years.

• Exterior window systems: $828,000

• Elevator renovations: $450,000

• Living unit wall/floor surfaces: $350,000

• Living unit cabinets and countertops: $1.12 million

• Living unit tubs/showers: $275,000

• Cast iron sanitary sewer system stacks: $375,000

• Common areas heating, ventilation and air conditioning: $882,000

Source: Chattanooga Housing Authority

Despite assurances to the contrary from housing officials, disabled and elderly residents in Dogwood Manor may have to relocate to make way for a $4.5 million renovation.

Talk of relocation at Dogwood raises fears among many residents that, once they're out, they might not get back into the apartments where they've lived for years.

Chattanooga Housing Authority officials said plans still are being formed and they don't want residents to be alarmed. Any moves will be made as painless as possible for residents, officials said, and any moving probably won't even happen for at least a year or more because it will take that long to get proposals and approvals in place.

When asked if residents who are relocated will be guaranteed a spot in the renovated site, CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright said those details are still under discussion.

"No decision has yet been made about returning residents," she said in an email. "However, that would be included in a relocation plan."

McCright said relocating residents is necessary because of the "comprehensive modernization project" at Dogwood. Apartments are scheduled to receive everything from new windows to cabinets, countertops, walls and floors.

"It is expected that residents will be required to relocate at the time that their unit renovation begins," McCright said in a written response to the Times Free Press.

In June, CHA board members authorized an agreement with the city for the housing authority to acquire Dogwood Manor Apartments and three additional parcels on Shallowford Road. In exchange for Dogwood, CHA will transfer the old Maurice Poss Homes land, a 19.96-acre parcel on South Market Street, to the city.

The sale hinges on approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. CHA officials said they hope to get HUD's OK and close the deal by the end of August. The transaction on the Poss homes property will require approval from multiple HUD offices, officials said.

Minutes from the CHA's June 26 board meeting indicate that some residents in Dogwood may move to units on other floors while their homes are renovated. CHA officials said residents also may be relocated to other senior high-rise buildings or they may receive housing vouchers to find housing.

"CHA proposes to renovate the building from the top down in one or more phases/contracts," the minutes read. "Several floors at the top would be vacated to start the process; once the first phase was completed, residents from lower floors would be relocated in the newly renovated units to vacate another lower section for the next phase of work."

Officials with the Westside Community Association and Dogwood Manor residents said they're upset because news of the possible relocation comes after CHA officials told them they were safe from displacement.

"Every time they pat us on the back, we have to get our backs bandaged from where they stabbed us," said Karl Epperson, vice president of the Westside Community Association.

Epperson said he was among the Westside and Dogwood seniors who attended a meeting a few weeks ago in which CHA officials said Dogwood residents would not have to move.

"They were assured that they would not have to move," said Epperson, who lives in the Overlook apartments in the Westside. "Several people asked that question over and over again. They said if they have to remodel, we'll move people to different floors. Now that [CHA] is taking Dogwood over, they're telling people that they may have to move. That galled me."

Roxann Larson, president of the Dogwood Resident Council, said CHA officials spoke at another meeting at Dogwood on June 28 and said residents would have to move.

CHA wants Dogwood in order to expand its public housing portfolio, said McCright, and the plan is to make the 136 one-bedroom, federally assisted housing units in Dogwood into public housing.

Making Dogwood public would free up more than 100 project-based housing vouchers assigned to Dogwood. The vouchers then could be given to help house other people in private homes or apartments, officials said.

At least $3 million for the $4.5 million renovation of Dogwood is expected to come from federal money restricted for use on new construction or for acquisition of new public housing sites, CHA officials said.

Some public housing residents complained that the money should be used to repair College Hill Courts, the city's largest housing development and the one, along with East Lake Courts, in perhaps the worst condition after Harriet Tubman Homes, which is in such bad shape CHA can't afford to fix it so it's scheduled to be sold.

But CHA said it would take $50 million to bring College Hill Courts up to standard.

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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