Chattanooga Housing Authority steps up 'one-strike' evictions

Chattanooga Housing Authority steps up 'one-strike' evictions

May 8th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

The Chattanooga Housing Authority has more than doubled its rate of evictions this year in an effort to reduce crime at public housing sites.

"We're trying to crack down, trying to eliminate crime from our communities," said Eddie Holmes, CHA's board chairman.

Five crime-related, or "one-strike," evictions occurred in March this year compared to one in March 2010.

The one-strike law was imposed by Congress to ensure zero tolerance for violence, drugs or criminal activity that could endanger the lives of public housing residents.

The number of all evictions has risen sharply since the beginning of the year, even before a stricter appeals policy was announced March 25, Holmes said.

Residents who receive eviction notices can no longer appeal to the housing authority. Instead, any appeals have to be made before a Sessions Court judge, Holmes said.

Of the 27 evictions in January and February 2010, four were one-strike, compared to 69 evictions in January and February this year, when 21 were one-strike evictions.

In all, CHA ordered 174 evictions in 2010. CHA was unable to provide figures on the number of evictions to date this year.

Most of the evictions last year, about 115, were for nonpayment of rent. About 39 were one-strike evictions and the rest were for other reasons.

CHA began strong enforcement of the one-strike policy after two shootings on public housing properties in March left four men wounded. As part of the crackdown, residents also would be held more accountable for visitors who commit crimes on their property, Holmes said.

CHA's housing sites went more than a month without a shooting from the time Holmes announced the crackdown. The peace ended April 30, when 25-year-old Robert Marlin Cole of Chattanooga allegedly fired at three police officers on Dee Drive in Greenview Terrace.

Cole doesn't live in Greenview Terrace. The actual tenant of the location where he was staying had not been home because his power was knocked out during recent tornadoes.

"We know we have seen a lot of criminal activity on our property and it doesn't involve residents," said CHA board member Connie O'Neal. "We are to give residents our best by trying to keep them as safe as possible, yet holding people accountable."

Public housing resident Jesse Lawrence said she appreciates the stricter policy and the housing authority's effort to keep public housing safer.

"It's a lot of crime that goes on in public housing," Lawrence said. "If [appeals don't] go before the judge and the housing authority lets them stay, then crime is going to continue."