2 sites loom large in Chattanooga Housing Authority's 2013 plan

2 sites loom large in Chattanooga Housing Authority's 2013 plan

September 23rd, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Betsy McCright

Betsy McCright

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.


What: Chattanooga Housing Authority Board meeting

What: Decision about approving 2013 Agency Plan is included on the agenda; recommendations from the public will be considered.

When: 12:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: CHA main office, 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

The Chattanooga Housing Authority wants to have a communitywide discussion about the future of the city's two largest and oldest public housing sites.

And Purpose Built Communities may be part of the conversation.

Joe Clark, newly elected vice president of the Westside Community Association, said he thought the Atlanta-based nonprofit group was out of the picture after the uproar by Westside residents over its mixed-income housing model for the community.

The group, once considered an agency that could help redevelop the Westside, hasn't met with the housing authority since encountering the groundswell of opposition in April. But CHA officials said the agency backed by billionaire Warren Buffet still may be considered.

"The CHA has not formulated a definite plan yet," said CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright. "But we are open to including Purpose Built in our work."

Several Westside residents opposed Purpose Built because they were concerned that the agency's housing plan, which would have required a reduction in the units of public housing in Westside, would result in residents being displaced.

The overall focus of CHA's planned discussion is the future of College Hill Courts and East Lake Courts, both of which were built in the 1940s and are in bad shape. Housing authority officials have said it would take $50 million to repair College Hill Courts and about $45 million to repair East Lake Courts, money CHA doesn't have.

The future of the two housing sites will be included in CHA's 2013 Five Year and Annual Agency Plan, which board members are scheduled to vote on Tuesday.

CHA board member Eddie Holmes said he wants to have an official request for proposals out by the end of the year for some agency to handle the next step for College Hill and East Lake Courts, whatever it is.

"The CHA cannot sustain these properties with the current level of HUD funding," said McCright. "We believe that it is wise to be proactive in our approach to addressing these declining portfolios by way of considering options through a planning process."

Roof repairs, sewer system repairs and repairs to all major infrastructure are needed at both sites, said CHA's vice president of development, Naveed Minhas.

College Hill Courts Resident Association President Tonya Rooks said her site also has problems with termites, cracks in the walls and mold.

Chattanooga officials, the Regional Planning Agency, residents and community leaders are expected to participate in developing a master plan that will determine what will happen to the sites. The team also will include architects, engineers and urban planners.

"We have no preconceived ideas," said Holmes, "but we can't let it go unattended. At least we have to have a plan."

If Purpose Built responds to a request for proposal, the agency will be considered, said Holmes.

In April, the Westside Community Association delivered more than 1,200 signatures to the Chattanooga City Council on a petition asking for unit-for-unit replacement of any public housing that's destroyed. More than 1,800 people are on the waiting list for public housing, according to the 2013 agency plan.

Rooks said it's only a matter of time before College Hill Courts is torn down and she has been advising residents to prepare to live somewhere else by getting a job or their GED.

"There's no way in the world they're not going to come and tear this place down," she said. "It's too close to the riverfront; it's too close to downtown. This is prime property."