BY THE NUMBERS
• 1,944 -- Applicants on waiting list for Chattanooga public housing
• 18 -- Units available at Fairmount Apartments
• 48 -- Units at Maple Hills
• 600 -- Number of applicants for Maple Hills and Fairmount Avenue lottery drawing
Source: Chattanooga Housing Authority
Michelle Crutch came to the Chattanooga Housing Authority hopeful for housing. Nearly an hour later, she left in tears.
"My husband lost his job two years ago," said Crutch, a 35-year-old mother of four whose home is in foreclosure. "That took our income from $123,000 a year to $370 a week. So we saw this as an opportunity. We said, 'It's worth a try.'"
Crutch was one of only a handful of people who sat scattered in seats Friday at the Chattanooga Housing Authority for a lottery drawing to decide who will become a resident at CHA's two newest housing developments, Fairmount Avenue Apartments in North Chattanooga and Maple Hills Apartments off North Chamberlain Avenue.
Only 18 units are available at Fairmount and 48 units at Maple Hills, but more than 600 people applied. The Fairmount development is scheduled to be finished in March, while Maple Hills will be ready for occupancy in September.
After waiting nearly an hour and not hearing her lottery number called, Crutch left despondent.
"Trying to find housing, housing that you can afford, is really difficult right now," she said through tears.
The large response from applicants illustrates the demand for decent, safe and affordable housing, said Carol Johnson, CHA's director of resident services.
More than 1,900 people are on the waiting list for public housing, according to the housing authority.
Of the 150 names selected for the new housing sites' lottery, the first 50 will be contacted to attend screenings on Jan. 26. They will be asked to complete a formal application and go through eligibility screening, which includes passing a criminal background check. And every applicant who is able-bodied must be willing to work or attend school at least 30 hours a week.
All who apply for the sites probably won't be eligible, housing officials said. After the first 50, the remaining 100 will be notified about a later screening. The other 450 names will be put in a locked box and kept in a secure place, according to housing officials.
On Friday, hopefuls waited while first a housing authority staff member, then 5-year-old Chandler Tate pulled lottery numbers of people who had applied for housing.
The numbers of Kateshia Schneider Story, Keyra Polk and Lakeesha Featherstone were selected, which means they proceed a step further toward getting housing in one of the new developments.
Featherstone, a mother of two, turned 29 on Jan. 7.
"This is a good birthday present," she said.
She didn't think she would win, she said. She had more enthusiasm when she applied for the Housing Choice Voucher lottery in 2010, but her named wasn't called then.
While her hopes were high this time around, "it doesn't hurt to try," she said.
She hopes to get an apartment at Maple Hills.