Some residents of public housing in Chattanooga will see their rent rise by more than $200 per month under nationwide increases ordered by the federal government.
The increases will affect only public housing residents who choose to pay a flat rate rather than a percentage of their income, or nearly 10 percent of Chattanooga Housing Authority residents, said the agency's executive director, Betsy McCright.
Flat-rate renters at College Hill Courts, East Lake Courts and Emma Wheeler Homes with three-bedroom apartments could see their rent rise by $223 per month, with rent going from $515 per month to $738.
For the first time, Congress is mandating that housing authorities across the country increase their flat-rate rents to 80 percent of the fair market rate, McCright said. Congress called for the increase out of concern that housing agencies did not increase flat-rate rents, she said.
The increases go into effect Sept. 1.
"Some people can't afford this," said public housing resident Theodore Cooper. "And it's not fair for us to pay market rate rent when they don't have market rate apartments."
CHA also said:
• No rent increase will exceed 35 percent of a person's income.
• Rents will be raised in increments for people with increases of 30 percent or more.
• Residents of elderly high-rises in Boynton Terrace and Gateway Towers will see their rent rise by $8 per month, from $354 to $362.
More than 200 of the housing authority's 2,571 public housing tenants opt to pay a flat-rate rent instead of income-based rent.
Typically flat-rate renters are those who have a two-income family or a retiree who has retirement income but also works.
"It's a way to keep higher-income people in public housing developments, but what Congress is saying across the nation is that many agencies haven't updated the flat-rate rents ... that's why they feel people should pay at least 80 percent of the fair market rent," McCright said.
McCright said CHA has updated its flat-rate rent since she has been executive director, but the rents are still less than the 80 percent of fair market rate demanded by the federal government.
CHA previously set flat-rate rents by surveying comparable units in the area and then adjusting the rent for unit size and amenities.
"We don't have washers and dryers, we don't have all the stuff that other places have so we have kept ours lower than we should, especially the large old sites," said McCright. "So this is Congress saying to the world that you've got to at least charge this amount of money so that's what we've got to do."
CHA will accept written public comments about the increase through July 15. The board will vote on the increase in August.
The increase is federally mandated and must happen barring a change at the federal level, but resident comments from across the country will be sent to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing nationwide.
"There may be something out there that we don't see or that HUD doesn't see to make HUD say maybe we should do this in a different way," said Eddie Holmes, CHA board chairman.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.