published Friday, March 28th, 2014

Public housing residents want to be on CHA board

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    Chattanooga City Councilman Moses Freeman speaks during the rally at Miller Park.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
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Public housing residents are not adequately represented on the Chattanooga Housing Authority board, and they want the mayor to appoint more of them to the board to make sure their interests are protected.

The Peoples Coalition for Affordable Housing asked the City Council to draft an ordinance that would ensure the mayor appoints public housing residents to a majority of CHA board seats.

The board has made “decisions which are not only outside of the interests of public housing residents, but decisions which are immediately divergent from interests of residents,” according to a letter that the Peoples Coalition for Affordable Housing gave to City Council members this week.

The idea fell flat with a couple of council members and one public housing resident.

“They don’t even know what they are talking about,” Councilman Moses Freeman said about the coalition, which he said does not have the credibility to speak for residents. “They are just a loose collection of people that formed together to advocate for something they personally believe in.”

Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem said public housing residents should be represented on the CHA board, but he doesn’t expect residents to make up a majority because the board is made of people with expertise in certain areas.

CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes said the board, which oversees a $60 million annual budget, intentionally includes people with expertise in housing policy, development and finance. The board, which is made of unpaid volunteers, is responsible for setting housing policy, hiring the executive director and approving the CHA budget, he said.

It’s not a glamorous job and usually no matter what happens, someone complains, Holmes said.

Of the seven CHA board members, only one, Betty Ruth Robinson, is a public housing resident. Robinson said she has been ill and has no comment.

Coalition board chairman Joe Clark said the CHA board would improve resident representation if Robinson knew more about resident concerns at each site. She should attend resident meetings or host her own regular meetings where resident leaders would bring concerns to her, he said.

But that doesn’t happen, said Clark.

“Historically, the holders of this position have poorly and ineffectively represented the interests of the residents. This position [the resident board member] has been misused to further agendas other than those of the residents,” according to the coalition letter to the council.

Most of CHA’s seven board members have never lived in public housing but their decisions affect people who do, according to the coalition.

Staff writer Joy Lukachick contributed to this article.

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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