Chattanooga's Affordable Housing Crisis


On Tuesday, April 7th, 2015, the Chattanooga City Council invited COA to give a presentation on the facts and figures of ourcity's affordable housing crisis. Presented by COA Board Chair Michael Gilliland, the presentation centered around this central fact: Chattanooga's working families cannot find the affordable housing they need, and something must be done about it.

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What is Affordable Housing?

Good question! While the term, "affordable housing" can mean many different things to different people, COA uses one standard definition of affordability - the HUD Income Limits threshold. The logic is easy: in order for your home (renter and homeowners included) to be considered affordable, your rent or mortgage costs plus utilities should not cost more than 30% of your gross income. If you're paying more than 30%, then you are considered housing burdened

Thousands apply to get on Chattanooga Housing Authority voucher waiting list

January 27th, 2015by Yolanda Putmanin Local Regional NewsRead Time: 2 mins.
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Betsy McCright, executive director of the Chattanooga Housing Authority, speaks to reporters at the agency offices in this Jan. 26, 2015,file photo.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


For more information

Visit chahousing.org for more information and to view (after noon on Feb. 2) a listing of the 1,000 applicants selected.

The Chattanooga Housing Authority opened its Housing Choice voucher program waiting list for the first time in four years on Monday.

Housing Choice voucher waiting lists also recently opened in Washington, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa and New York. For every 100 extremely low-income renter households nationally, there are only 30 units of affordable housing available, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

More than 4,600 people had completed online applications for the Chattanooga Housing Choice voucher program by 3 p.m. Monday, just hours after CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright hosted a news conference about the open waiting list. The housing authority hasn't accepted Housing Choice voucher applications since 2010 when more than 5,660 applicants applied.

The Housing Choice voucher program, formerly called Section 8, is a federally funded program that allows low-income tenants to pay only 30 percent of their income for rent while the housing authority issues payment vouchers to landlords that pay the remainder.

Some 70,000 people are expected to fill out applications in Alameda, Calif. Only 750 people will be selected when that housing authority opens its list on Thursday.

The Atlanta Housing Authority opened and closed its waiting list this month after randomly selecting 10,000 applicants for housing.

For the Chattanooga Housing Authority's Housing Choice voucher waiting list a computer will randomly select 1,000 voucher applicants. All other applicants must reapply.

Even if an applicant receives a voucher, that's no guarantee of housing. McCright said Monday that only 30 percent to 50 percent of voucher holders in the past found landlords willing to accept their vouchers.

To boost landlord participation, the housing authority plans to have quarterly meetings and invite present and potential landlords and housing managers to attend. The meetings would include speakers and address any concerns or questions that the property provider has. McCright expects the meetings to start within the first quarter of the year.

The authority expects it will take about 18 months to get through the waiting list of 1,000 people. It will post the 1,000 applications selected on its website by noon Feb. 2.

By the second week of February the housing authority will start pulling names from the list to make sure those applicants qualify and pass criminal background checks.

The authority has 250 vouchers available.

East Lake Courts resident Sidney Hannah wants to get one of them. Hannah, 50, lives with his disabled brother in the city's second-largest and second-oldest public housing site.

In the four years he's lived in East Lake he's been robbed, his jaw has been broken and he's been held at gunpoint.

"I just can't take any more," Hannah said.

He was among a few people coming into the housing authority offices on Monday for help filling out the online application.

Other applicants include a 55-year-old widow who lived in a house with no heat or running water for seven years and a 31-year-old single father who wants to move from his East Chattanooga community to an area with better schools for his 7-year-old son.

To further illustrate the need for low-income housing, McCright noted that the Chattanooga Housing Authority has waiting lists for all 16 of its public housing sites that house about 2,964 families.

CHA assists a total of 3,350 families with vouchers. Nationally the Housing Choice voucher program assists about 2.1 million households, according to news reports.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yput This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 757-6431.


The bottom line is this, far too few Chattanoogans have affordable housing. Too many of us are forced to make increasingly tough choices in our budgets. Pay the rent or pay down our debt? Save for our children's college or pay our mortgage? The price of a good roof over our heads is weighing down the possibilities of our futures, and it is weighing down the potential of our city.

Affordable housing should not be a luxury. A successful city is built on economically sustainable communities. When families and individuals have affordable housing suitable to their budget, it brings stability and prosperity not only to themselves, but to their entire neighborhood.

In moments of crisis, opportunities present themselves. Chattanooga now has an opportunity to preserve and protect the historic diversity and social wealth that our city and urban core thrives on, but it will not happen without decisive action. 

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