Chattanooga group wants fair housing rules

Chattanooga group wants fair housing rules

September 11th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Reverend Leroy Griffith

Reverend Leroy Griffith

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.


The City Council's Housing and Neighborhood Services Committee meets at 2 p.m. today in the J.B. Collins conference room to discuss housing in the city and to hear about a fair housing zoning ordinance.

The Rev. Leroy Griffith wants to be heard.

But he has doubts about whether anyone on the Chattanooga City Council is listening.

He spent Friday walking along 11th Street, handing out packets of information regarding a fair housing ordinance he and the Westside Community Association are trying to push through the council. Inside the packet were 10 pages of documentation on how the council has not listened to his group over the last six months.

Today, Griffith will give a presentation on the proposal to the council's Housing and Neighborhood Services Committee. But how long? Fifteen minutes? Ten? Five?

"I don't know how long we'll have left," said Councilwoman Sally Robinson, chairwoman of the committee.

The Westside Community Association, along with the advocacy group Chattanooga Organized for Action, wants fair housing in Chattanooga and wrote an ordinance that members think will help the situation.

Griffith doesn't think the proposal is radical -- for every 10 apartments or condominiums built, one unit must be rented to low- or moderate-income tenants. For every 10 residential houses built, for three units to be leased to low- or moderate-income tenants.

The zoning would take place in the "urban overlay zone," which runs from Missionary Ridge to the Tennessee River.

"This is a very, very modest proposal," Griffith said.

Every time Griffith and others have gone to the council with the ordinance, they've been told it's not the council's problem.

The song remains the same today.

"We're not even the right forum for them," Robinson said. "It should be the Chattanooga Housing Authority. They're in the wrong forum."

But that's not exactly true.

The City Charter states that the council is in charge of zoning ordinances.

John Bridger, executive director for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, said Monday that any proposed city zoning ordinances would have to go through the Regional Planning Agency first. And to get to the planning agency, an ordinance would have to go through the City Council first, he said.

"They would start the process," he said.

Nearly 2,000 people right now are waiting on housing, Griffith noted, and the city needs a doctor to help prescribe a remedy.

"The patient is the City Council in denial they have cancer," he said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at or 423-757-6480. Follow him at or