published Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Vacant properties in Chattanooga may get face-lift


Interactive by Mary Helen Miller
Properties being transferred to the city for full ownership

In other business, commissioners:

• Accepted a $116,865 bid from Mountain View Ford Lincoln for police equipment on 30 newly purchased cars for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

• Voted to enter a $24,660 contract with Riverstreet Architecture to build two new restrooms at Chester Frost Park.

• Voted to apply for and accept a $108,900 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation for litter collection.

More than 30 vacant properties in Chattanooga may get a face-lift — or be bulldozed and rebuilt — after Hamilton County commissioners Wednesday voted to give up the county’s stake in the tracts.

Commissioners voted to give the city full ownership of 34 jointly-owned back-tax properties. In turn, the city plans to prep the properties and give the lots to developers — kicking off an affordable housing pilot project for city residents.

The idea is that the developers will then build homes to the city’s specifications and make them available for rent for people whose incomes are between 50 and 80 percent of the city’s median income. That means single residents who make between $20,300 and $32,500 a year could benefit.

Commissioner Joe Graham, finance committee chairman, said the trade is a good deal for everyone.

“We will be able to partner with the city on this and help a lot of underprivileged families who otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to afford a home,” Graham said.

Last week, Commissioner Warren Mackey also called the measure a “win-win,” saying the revamped properties would improve property values and get the abandoned lots back on the tax rolls.

The city requested the properties be turned over in a letter on March 7. Donna Williams, administrator of the city’s department of economic and community development, said a “hot real estate market” in Chattanooga has driven up rent costs and made it difficult for low- to middle-income residents find housing.

The city also hopes to take advantage of federal grant funding and other housing programs and connect developers with them as well.

City spokeswoman Lacie Stone said in an email Wednesday that the city is working with developers and training them for the program.

Developers must sign up with the city by the end of the week, and a lottery will be held to see which developers are involved in the first phase, she said.

In the same meeting, commissioners voted to accept bids for 77 other back-tax properties to the tune of $299,077.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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