At a meeting Monday, the Chattanooga Housing Authority gave a brief presentation about the deterioration of its larger public housing sites, then read written questions that residents and community members submitted about Purpose Built and public housing. Below are questions and their answers:
Q: What do you need to know about a community before you commit your time and consultation services?
A: We go where we're invited. We usually look for communities that both understand the initiative and the framework ... [and] are willing to put the time and energy in to come up with solutions that work for them. This is very preliminary from our standpoint. We're just here to listen and learn and to hear and to see how we might be of help. -- Shirley Franklin, chief executive officer of Purpose Built
Q: How does Purpose Built work? Will you come in and help the community choose the right site?
A: We're consultants. We're not developers. We don't charge a fee for what we do but what we do is offer a framework to think about solving problems at a community level so we don't substitute our judgment for the judgment of communities. What's going to be right in Chattanooga is what's going to be right in Chattanooga. It's kind of a courting relationship. Early on we kind of date, get to know each other a little bit. And you get to decide if you like us and we get to decide if we like you and if we feel like there is a fit. And if there is we might work together for 90 or 120 days to do some preliminary planning together to see if this is something. If there is, we might get married and agree to work together on a long-term basis to actually execute the plan. Sometimes it doesn't make sense for us to want to be engaged with a local community. And we've told a whole lot more communities "no" than we've told "yes." -- Carol Naughton, Purpose Built vice president
Q: How do the finances of a Purpose Built model work?
A: "There is no set answer to help you accomplish it, but it's public, private and often philanthropic dollars in some combination for each of those components." -- Shirley Franklin.
Q: What percentage of residents who previously lived in East Lake Courts in Atlanta were allowed to return?
A: Those are two questions really. I think what you really wanted to know is how many who used to live in East Lake Meadows chose to come back to the Villages of East Lake. Seventy-seven families chose to come back out of 400 who are eligible. And another 23 moved a half mile away in some off site replacement housing. So about 100 of the 400 families who lived in East Lake Meadows moved back to the same neighborhood. The other families chose to relocate and stay in other public housing. It was every families' choice. They got, for the first time, to pick where they were going to live and that was a very empowering thing for residents in East Lake Meadows who had never before got a chance to choose where they were going to live. But it was a good process, probably not a perfect process, but it was a good process. -- Carol Naughton
Q: What percentage of the new condominiums at East Lake Courts (in Atlanta) were set aside for public and subsidized housing?
A: There are no condominiums in the Villages of East Lake. It's all rental. So the 542 units that are there are all rental housing. Fifty percent are rented to families who qualify for public housing assistance. And 50 percent are rented to families who can pay market rent. It's our goal, frankly, to have the property operated at the highest standards and earn some income to satisfy the debt on the property and to generate income to spend on programming in the neighborhood.
Q: Is the model for Purpose Built more toward meeting the wants of private land developers rather than meeting the greatest needs of low-income residents?
A: The Purpose Built model is built on working with communities doing what they determine are their most troubled areas. Where residents, community leaders, city leaders, civic leaders and housing authority, philanthropist, believe they can bring the resources together in order to leverage the investment that it takes. We are not the housing authority. Our mission is to offer a model that marries the mission of the housing authority and the desires of the general community to have a healthy place to live. For low-income people, people who need subsidy and people who are looking for first rate housing in a community that works, works for them, works for the city. So if we have given the impression that we are a substitute for the housing authority whose mission is to do housing, not exclusively, but primarily for those needing some kind of subsidy, we've misinformed you and we apologize for that.
Q. I hear her keep talking about a marriage. Is this a shotgun marriage? I don't think Chattanooga as a whole invited you here. I think the mayor invited you.
A: We thought a long time about whether we would come this time. Let me just put it out there. Because we think there has to be a lot of conversation locally about what you want to do, where you want to go. We decided to come back because frankly we see the same writing on the wall that we saw in the presentation by the housing authority. It's only a matter of time. If something different is not done to invest public and private dollars into the public housing projects that you already have, the community is going to be even more disenchanted. You can't find $100 million easily. Nobody can today. And so one of the reasons we decided to come back is that we want you to know that if you are interested as a community, the broader community, in having our input to how you can take a little bit of the funding that you have, the aspirations that you want to have in Chattanooga and use our experience to help you get there faster, we would be happy to be a part of that of discussion. We know that unless there are parties on the other side in the philanthropic community, the political community, in the city community and in the resident community who want that, too, this isn't going to work with us. So I'm glad you asked the question because it is not a shotgun marriage. -- Shirley Franklin
A: I want us to remember that this is just information gathering in terms of what's going on in the community. We understand that we need to do something in this community with public housing. And we are soliciting help from anyone who can bring information. I'd like to thank the mayor and anybody else who brings something to the housing authority in terms of how do we go forth. This process is just beginning. I don't want anyone to leave with the idea that we're forcing something on this community." -- Eddie Holmes, chairman of the Chattanooga Housing Authority board