Chattanooga Housing Authority selling apartments

Chattanooga Housing Authority selling apartments

April 11th, 2009 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Josephine Ward ties her three-year-old son Jahriq Ward's shoes outside of their apartment Friday morning. Ms. Ward and her four children have been residing at the Gurley St. Apartment complex for the past five years and do not know where they will end up when the public housing complex is sold.

Josephine Ward is not sure what's going to happen to her home at the Gurley Street Apartments, but she knows plans for the public housing site include her leaving.

"The Northside (of Chattanooga) has gone up now," she said. "They are buying up properties, turning them into condos or townhomes, and they're not doing it for us."

Chattanooga Housing Authority board members recently approved a contract that will allow the 24-unit public housing complex in North Chattanooga to be sold to Gurley Street LLC for $400,000.

CHA PROPERTIES

The housing authority has listed the following properties for sale or lease:

* 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

* Chandler Street at West 34th Street

* Gurley Street at Pine Ridge Road (now under contract)

* James A. Henry School (leased to Chattanooga Girls Academy Charter School)

* Grove Street commercial lot

* Several residential lots

Source: Chattanooga Housing Authority

The sale must be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but housing officials here say they expect to receive an approval letter from HUD by the end of April.

John Wise, chief manager of Gurley Street LLC, said he plans to rehabilitate the apartments, bring them up to market rate and use them to provide "nice, affordable downtown apartments." However, he said he probably initially will not accept Housing Choice vouchers.

Housing Choice vouchers are a federally subsidized housing program to assist low- to moderate-income residents.

The vouchers are administered locally by the housing authority, which receives funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the program. Eligibility for a voucher is based on the total annual gross income and family size of the household.

Mr. Wise said he plans to start revitalizing the apartments 10 days after closing and all paperwork is approved.

Because HUD funded the Gurley Street property, the $400,000 that the Chattanooga Housing Authority gets from its sale must be used for public housing. It cannot be used to pay off any housing authority expenses that occurred from its $4.5 million budget shortfall unless that use is authorized by HUD, said Bill Lord, CHA's chief of public information.

If HUD approval of the sale goes through as expected, the housing authority will give residents a 90-day relocation notice and financial assistance to relocate. Housing officials said they are not sure how much financial assistance they will give.

Ms. Ward represents one of six families now living in the Gurley Street Apartments. She said there has been talk of relocating the families for at least two years, but nothing has happened.

In the meantime, residents are unsure about where their children will attend school or where they will live, she said. Children in the North Chattanooga community now are zoned for Red Bank elementary, middle and high school and for Normal Park Museum Magnet, parents said.

Housing officials have offered the residents units in public housing family sites in the past because that is what has been available. However, resident Tramessa Morgan said she prefers the authority's scattered site housing - which is smaller and houses fewer people - and that the family sites are not acceptable.

"We're used to living in a different setting that is smaller and has less violence," she said. "There (at family sites) you have to worry about guns and fighting, and we're not used to that up here."

Ms. Morgan said she is on a waiting list to move into the newly renovated Greenwood Terrace Apartments on Dee Drive.

Housing officials said they may be able to give residents more options by the time they have all the paperwork they need to complete the sale of the Gurley apartments.

"We are fixing (other public housing) units and getting them ready right now," said Naveed Minhas, CHA's vice president.

If no public housing site is available, residents also may be offered Housing Choice vouchers, he said.