Chattanooga City Council Chairwoman Raquetta Dotley summed up this week’s One Westside update in the October 24 agenda session in terms that contrast vividly to those made during the initial September presentation. Stating the obvious, Dotley noted, “Our last meeting was a little tense,” but concluding with “Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome…”
So, what provoked such a turnabout of events?
The Chattanooga Housing Authority took its marching orders from a very vocal and unmoved Council after the initial presentation on September 26 that utilized three-year old, incomplete data. Preferences of residents of the Gateway Towers and College Hill Courts presented were based on assumptions and projections, rather than a promised survey to address the complex transition of building, relocation, demolition, construction, and return to new units in the massive multi-year redevelopment project tethered to the major development project at The Bend.
A new survey was conducted by CHA of Gateway residents, predominantly seniors, and those of College Hill Courts. The questions asked revealed how many wanted to continue living downtown onsite as the demolition and redevelopment occurred versus those who wanted a Housing Choice voucher to find rental housing or live in a CHA-managed property.
A second question asked how many residents wanted to return to the redeveloped subsidized housing that was first built 83 years ago. Finally, at the insistence of the Council, a new question was added to understand residents’ long-term homeownership desires.
The goal of CHA was to survey 75% of Gateway Towers residents and 75% of College Hill Courts (CHC) residents. At the Gateway Towers 73% of residents were surveyed, with visits attempted five times.
Seventy-seven percent of Gateway residents surveyed want to remain downtown throughout the entire tenure of the project, and 80% plan to return. CHC respondents indicated that 47% want to remain onsite as demolition and redevelopment occur, with 82% wanting to return upon the completion of new units.
Looking at the question of aspiring to own a home, 65% of respondents at CHC indicated their desire to move out of the need of tax-payer subsidized housing to their own home.
Again, Chairman Dotley praised the new information and availability of one-on-one advisors to counsel and educate residents over the course of time on the process of homeownership, noting that the answer to the homeownership question changes the “narrative about people in College Hill Courts.”
Councilwoman Dotley, whose district holds both the Westside and The Bend properties, continued, “People have ambitions. Everybody doesn’t have a father or mother who left them property or a way to navigate certain circumstances…”
As the critical window approaches for the final reading of the very intricate resolution filled with amendments, funding sources, budgets, projected timelines, and moving parts, the tone and temperature of this Agenda Session presentation appears to spell good news for a generational project to move forward that may reflect the Chattanooga Way from day’s past where all benefit.