Doors open today at Chattanooga's new public housing site

IF YOU GOWhat: Maple Hills grand openingWhen: 10:30 a.m. todayWhere: 2515 Gilbert St., ChattanoogaSource: Chattanooga Housing Authority

As the population of low-income and impoverished people increases in Chattanooga, so do the standards for getting into public housing.

Everyone who moves into the Chattanooga Housing Authority's newest development, Maple Hills, must be in its Upward Mobility program, which is designed to help residents become self-sufficient. Housing officials say they are trying to get away from the days when people lived decades dependent on the federal government.

The $8.7 million, 48-unit Maple Hills in East Chattanooga is the second Upward Mobility, nonsmoking site in the city. Fairmount, which opened in May, was the first. The grand opening for Maple Hills is at 10:30 a.m. today.

The Upward Mobility program requires that residents be committed to having a job, being in a job training program or being in school. Those who are not working, in school or in a job training program have 90 days to find employment before they are threatened with eviction.

The only exception is for people 62 and older and the disabled.

"I'd live there"

City Councilman Peter Murphy, who represents the area on the council, called the site "fantastic."

"I'd live there," he said. "I would be excited if one of my family members lived there."

He called the site a quality investment and said it is good for the East Chattanooga community.

The new, more-stringent admission requirements stem from a desire to create mixed-income housing that's a place of choice instead of a place of last resort, said Mark Straub, development officer for Pennrose Properties, which will manage the site.

Of the 48 units, 33 are public housing, while 15 are funded by income tax credits.

According to income limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a single person can make up to $32,400 a year and qualify for public housing. A two-person household can make up to $37,000 and live in public housing.

A person in low-income tax credit housing may earn no more than 60 percent of the area median income adjusted for household size, or about $24,300 a year for a single person. Rent will be set at one-third of a tenant's income.

Housing officials said they want teachers, firefighters and other professionals to consider living in the homes.

Public housing started around 1935, during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration and was intended to provide shelter for working families hit by the Depression. The term was "workforce housing," and that's what housing officials now are trying to get back to, Straub said.

Maple Hills sits at the 1900 block of Chamberlain Avenue in the heart of East Chattanooga. But instead of the 40-year-old public housing that was once there, residents will walk into new units with the smell of paint still fresh on the walls and vinyl plank flooring that looks like hardwood.

The site includes a U-shaped driveway that encloses a community greenspace with benches, mail boxes, a picnic table and grill.

Move in near

First occupancy could come as early as this week, said CHA officials. The housing authority held a lottery to accept applications for the Maple Hills development and still are working through the applications. However, the agency anticipates that it will have enough qualified applicants from the lottery drawing to fill the 33 units of public housing.

CHA officials said they're excited about the possibility of the site getting "LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] for Homes" Gold Certification because of the agency's effort to be energy efficient. The site includes Energy Star appliances and lighting, high-efficiency water fixtures, permeable concrete sidewalks and energy-efficient windows and doors.

CHA Vice President of Development Naveed Minhas said he expects to know in August or September if Maple Hills will get the LEED certification.