Public housing residents living in the most modern sites in the city face eviction if they don't work, attend school or volunteer at least 30 hours a week.
Chattanooga Housing Authority board members voted unanimously Monday to evict residents in the housing authority's Upward Mobility program if they don't keep their work agreement. The policy takes effect March 1.
As part of the program, residents living in the city's newest sites have 90 days to enroll in school or job training, or volunteer or get a job before they face eviction. A case manager works with them to find jobs or training. And even after 90 days, they can get a 30-day extension.
Families who agree to work and increase their education are provided a residence in the agency's newer more high-end public housing sites, including Greenwood Terrace, Maple Hills and Fairmount Apartments. Fairmount is the public housing site located in North Chattanooga where children attend the Normal Park school, recognized as one of the top magnet schools in the country.
Residents age 62 and older are exempt from the work requirement.
CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright said most of the nearly 150 families in the Upward Mobility sites comply, but a few object openly.
"What we have seen are instances where people won't do what they're suppose to do and continue to live at the site," McCright said. "They say the worse that will happen is that they will be moved to another site, so they don't do anything."
Housing officials previously moved tenants not meeting their work or study agreements to older, larger public housing sites, but sometimes it would take a long time before another public housing site became available. So families who worked every day would see the family next to them doing nothing.
"What we propose is that if people do not get done what they need to get done, they will be evicted," said McCright, after the monthly board meeting Tuesday.
A 79-year-old Fairmount Apartment resident said she understands the housing agency's decision to evict, but she hopes residents get more than one opportunity to comply before they're evicted.
"They [housing officials] gave them a chance and helped them to get an education and jobs, but a lot of them didn't take advantage of that. It's a good program, and I understand why they may evict some people," she said.
One mother of three children who lived at Fairmount also agreed.
"Everybody should work," she said. "What else are you going to do all day?"
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.