The president of the Dogwood Resident Council plans to knock on doors this week, collecting signatures on a petition that asks the Chattanooga Housing Authority to give residents a say in what happens to their home and themselves.
Roxann Larson said the petition is necessary because CHA is about a month away from closing on a deal to purchase Dogwood. Once the deal is done, plans are to renovate the high-rise apartments for the elderly and convert them to low-income housing. If all goes as planned, residents will have to relocate during the renovations, and there is no guarantee that all of them will be allowed to return.
"We residents of Dogwood Manor want to have input in all decisions revolving around matters that will cause residents to have to vacate their lifetime homes," states the petition.
Larson had 15 signatures on the petition Tuesday, and the goal is to get about 68 signatures, representing about half of the 136 residents who live at Dogwood.
CHA said it is still waiting to see if it gets approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Dogwood purchase.
Housing officials said Tuesday that they don't know if HUD will approve of CHA owning the property.
"Until we are certain that we can go forward, there's no point in guessing what we might or might not do," CHA officials said in an emailed response to the Times Free Press.
CHA officials have said some residents will have to leave Dogwood if CHA gets ownership of the building because they don't qualify for the type of low-income housing that will replace the building's current Section 8 apartments.
Dogwood residents could be a valuable resource during the $4.5 million renovation, Larson said.
"We may be able to figure out something else that they have not thought of," she said.
Michael Kane, executive director of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, said CHA should give resident ideas a try. He has worked with several resident organizations that have presented ideas to housing officials that have allowed residents to remain onsite during extensive renovations and also ideas that saved dozens of public housing developments, Kane said.
"Some enlightened housing authorities would welcome resident participation because that is who the agency is there to serve," he said. "The tenants are the customers of the agency, and they know a lot of what's going on in the building."
In June, CHA board members authorized an agreement with the city for the housing authority to acquire Dogwood Manor Apartments and three additional parcels on Shallowford Road. In exchange for Dogwood, CHA will transfer to the city the old Maurice Poss Homes land, a 19.96-acre parcel on South Market Street next to the Howard School.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yput firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6431.