12 new Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise homes are sitting empty

12 new Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise homes are sitting empty

October 22nd, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Nick Wilkerson, director of development for Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, talks about the "Better Built" homes for sale in the 600 block of North Holly Street in the Bushtown community. Of the 12 new homes built on the block, five are still empty.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


What: North Holly Street open house

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 3

Where: 601 N. Holly St.

RSVP: info@cneinc.org or call 756-6226


Since CNE began administering mortgage payment assistance in March 2011, it has provided $5 million to more than 265 local homeowners facing foreclosure. More than 80 homes in Hamilton County went into foreclosure in September, with about 271 homes in Hamilton County going into foreclosure so far this year, according to filings with the Hamilton County Register of Deeds. For assistance with foreclosure prevention, visit www.cneinc.org or call the Foreclosure Prevention Hotline at 423-664-4663.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise has sold seven new houses in the 600 block of North Holly Street in the Bushtown community, and has five more for sale. Buyers are eligible for a low-interest $15,000 loan that is forgiven if the homeowner stays for five years.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise has sold seven new houses...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise headed a $1.8 million Bushtown/Orchard Knob neighborhood revitalization two years ago that resulted in the construction of 26 new homes.

But 12 of them are still empty, and one of them has a bullet hole through a window.

CNE officials say crime is not a dealbreaker for people to live in the area.

CNE is not converting people who want to live on an acre of land in Ooltewah, said Abby Garrison, CNE's director of strategic initiative. The housing is for those who want affordable housing close to downtown, she said.

The Bushtown Neighborhood Association and CNE will host a block party Nov. 3 to show off five available houses in the 600 block of North Holly Street.

The biggest obstacle to selling the homes has been media horror stories about foreclosures and the economy, Garrison said. The economic downturn nationally was driven by overbuilding, people buying beyond their means and getting easy access to loans even if they weren't qualified, she said.

The reality is that buying a home has never been more affordable, she said. Interest rates are low, and CNE has incentives and homeownership programs to guide people.

Nick Wilkinson, CNE's director of development, said affordable housing is available in Chattanooga.

"It's here in Bushtown. Come buy one," he said.

Seven new families have purchased homes on North Holly in the past two years. Reginald Smith, a 26-year-old innovations office manager for Hamilton County Schools, purchased his in November 2011.

"I like it because it's mine," he said.

Stories of a poor economy never bothered him because he knew he could afford the house, he said. After living in Memphis, he said he is confident he knows how to protect himself and his home.

"This is peaceful," he said. "There crime is everywhere."

The three-bedroom, two-bath homes sell for about $130,000. They all come with a $15,000 loan incentive that's free money to anyone who lives in the home for at least five years.

Monthly mortgage payments are likely to be under $1,000, said Wilkinson, while utilities are also expected to be low because the houses are energy efficient.

And just because the housing is affordable doesn't mean that developers cut corners on quality, said Wilkinson. The houses have real hardwood floors and the kitchen cabinets are stainless steel, he said.

But crime is still a factor.

The homes are less than a mile from the 800 block of Orchard Knob, where 23-year-old Demarcus Husband was fatally shot this year. They are also near the 2000 block of Rawlings Street, where 45-year-old Barbara Johnson was fatally shot in the face and neck.

The majority of the $1.8 million used to build the homes came through a federal program that provides money to stabilize neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures and affected by crime and blight. The Lyndhurst Foundation also contributed funds.

The $130,000 for which the houses sell is almost twice as much as the $70,000 and $80,000 homes that fill most of the community, according to Realtor.com.

But Bushtown is in the midst of a revitalization, said Stan Brown, owner of Success Realty and a real estate broker who has sold homes in the area. Selling the homes at $130,000 lays the foundation for an increase in property value, he said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6431.