CHA eyes expansion of housing work rules

CHA eyes expansion of housing work rules

May 18th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

TO COMMENT

Written comments concerning Greenwood Terrace may be emailed to ed@chahousing.org or mailed to the attention of Ann Martin, c/o Chattanooga Housing Authority, 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave. For more information about the Upward Mobility expansion and other proposed policy changes go to www.chahousing.org.

The CHA will accept written comments until noon May 20.

Greenwood Terrace Apartments is pretty nice, as far as public housing goes. It's tucked away on a hill in Eastdale. Its reputation for crime isn't as bad. The 98 families who live there want desperately to remain.

But they might be made to leave if the Chattanooga Housing Authority votes to make Greenwood Terrace an Upward Mobility housing development.

The new label would mean that all adult residents would have to be in job training, at school or working 30 hours a week. Those who don't comply would be sent to older public housing sites such as East Lake Courts or College Hill Courts, essentially setting aside nicer public housing developments for people who are working.

But violence at the East Lake and College Hill developments makes some Greenwood residents uneasy. Several shootings have happened recently at both sites, including the shooting of a police officer at East Lake Courts in March and the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man at College Hill Courts in January because of rival gang tensions.

"If you're going to send me to East Lake, you might as well put me in the cemetery," said Tedarrius Brady, 20, who lives at Greenwood Terrace.

If CHA's board approves, Greenwood will become the city's third public housing site to have a work or school requirement.

The work requirements proposed at Greenwood and implemented already at Fairmount and Maple Hills Apartments are in sync with housing authorities across the nation. Officials are pushing Congress to allow public housing agencies to impose stricter requirements on residents, The Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Of the 3,200 public housing agencies in the country, Congress has allowed 39 to impose mandated work requirements and time limits on residents. Chattanooga does not have the strictest requirements.

"I know there's going to be resistance, but we're trying to encourage residents to improve their lifestyle," said Eddie Holmes, CHA's board chairman. "The driving force is the money. ... We no longer have the money for people to stay in public housing until they die."

And CHA is asking its board members for authority to designate work requirements for even more public housing sites. The goal is for residents in the Upward Mobility program to move out of public housing within five years, according to the proposal.

Right now, CHA has no term limit for living in public housing, said Naveed Minhas, the agency's vice president of development.

The public has until Monday to make written comments concerning the proposed Upward Mobility expansion. The board is scheduled to vote on the proposed expansion June 18.

If the board approves, CHA proposes giving residents at Greenwood six months to find a job before transferring them. That is double the time residents at the other Upward Mobility sites were given to transition.

Several Greenwood Terrace residents said they oppose having work and education requirements to live in public housing. Every resident who commented was employed, but all of them had experienced job loss or knew someone who had.

Brady, who plans to get his GED at Chattanooga State to improve his employability, said it took him six months to get a job in hotel housekeeping.

"Sometimes it's hard. It's not that you don't try to work," he said. "You may look the part, have a fresh haircut, nice clothes, and still not get the job."

Still, CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright said she doesn't expect many residents to be affected. Since the Upward Mobility program started at Fairmount and Maple Hills in 2012, only one resident has been forced to relocate.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.