published Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Chattanooga Housing Authority plans upset residents of Alton Park

The silhouettes of Marc Fink, left, and Aubrey Fritz, homeowners in the Villages at Alton Park, are seen in a window reflection of the development as they talk Wednesday on the porch of Fritz's home in Chattanooga about their concerns about the housing development.  Some Alton Park residents are concerned about property values and how the development has been handled by the Chattanooga Housing Authority.
The silhouettes of Marc Fink, left, and Aubrey Fritz, homeowners in the Villages at Alton Park, are seen in a window reflection of the development as they talk Wednesday on the porch of Fritz's home in Chattanooga about their concerns about the housing development. Some Alton Park residents are concerned about property values and how the development has been handled by the Chattanooga Housing Authority.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

IF YOU GO

* What: CHA personnel meet with Villages at Alton Park homeowners

* When: 5:30 p.m. today

* Where: Villages at Alton Park clubhouse on Hughes Avenue

Villages at Alton Park homeowners saw a public notice in the Chattanooga Times Free Press this month that stated the city had awarded Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga $387,000 to build seven homes in their community on Canary Circle.

Homeowners are upset that they've had no input into the decision and they didn't even know the work was happening, said Aubrey Fritz, former president and board chairman of the Villages at Alton Park Homeowners Association.

Fritz said he also is concerned Habitat homes further will pull down the property values of homes in the neighborhood.

He said his house, a one-story, three-bedroom, one-bath structure, was valued at $110,000 when he moved into the community in 2006. Now he's seeing similar houses sell for less than $80,000, and some houses have been on the market for longer than a year and haven't sold, he said.

Chattanooga Housing Authority personnel said no decisions have been made about selling the property to Habitat for Humanity, and they plan to meet with Alton Park homeowners today to explain their plans for the land and the land requirements.

All 50 parcels at the site must be used to build single-family homes, said Betsy McCright, CHA's executive director.

"This is the time for input," she said.

McCright said no decisions have been made.

Habitat could be among many developers interested in the land, she said.

She said she plans to tell Habitat and any other developers present the land requirements for the property, the deed restrictions, and to show drawings of the types of houses that could be built on the property. McCright said she also wants to make clear that the property will not be sold to any developer who wants to build an apartment complex.

Donna Williams, executive director of Habitat, said Alton Park is one of several places where the organization is considering building houses. She agreed that no final decision has been made.

She said that, for the purpose of filling out paperwork to get the city grant funding, Habitat officials had to put down an address where they would build houses, so they chose Alton Park because it had many vacant lots.

Williams said she understood homeowners' concern about decreasing property value, and that those concerns might have been valid about Habitat houses built in the past, but the houses proposed for the Villages would be similar to the Habitat houses built in Bushtown. Those are appraised at about $120,000, she said.

The houses that Habitat is proposing would complement other homes in the Villages, she said.

The proposed Habitat homes are the latest example of how homeowners in Alton Park have been neglected and disrespected, Fritz said.

Many of those homeowners purchased their homes because they believed in the vision of a mixed-income community, he said. The Villages at Alton Park was supposed to be the city's first community with public housing residents and homeowners living in the same area.

CHA received a $35 million federal Hope VI grant to create the community, and the plan was for 275 rental flats, townhomes and duplexes and 125 single-family homes, according to Pennrose Properties. There also was a plan to make East 38th Street a commercial corridor.

But after building some rental properties and 44 homes, housing officials ran out of money, and property values have been falling since then, Fritz said.

Dozens of Alton Park homeowners have signed a petition asking for the NAACP's assistance in having the housing authority complete plans proposed for the $35 million HOPE VI project.

Dr. Elenora Woods, president of the Alton Park Piney Woods Development Corp. and chairwoman of the NAACP's housing committee, plans to attend the meeting today.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com.

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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