The CityWide Resident Council, a HUD-recognized tenant’s organization representing Chattanoogans living in public and subsidized housing under the jurisdiction of the Chattanooga Housing Authority, announced Wednesday that they have officially formed, elected officers, and intends on hosting a press conference to make their formal announcement on Thursday, Dec. 13, at 10 a.m. at the site of the now-closed Harriet Tubman Homes public housing community to announce their formation and plans to oppose the further destruction of public housing in Chattanooga, including the proposed demolition or sale of College Hill Courts and East Lake Courts as found in the 2013 Chattanooga Housing Authority’s Annual Plan.
The CityWide Resident Council was officially formed on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at a swearing-in ceremony hosted by City Councilman Andrae McGary at the Boynton Terrace Senior Center. The seven elected officers represent residents living in both CHA’s low income public housing developments and those receiving Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The seven officers include: George Walker of Boynton Terrace as president; Roxann Larson of Dogwood Manor Apartments as vice-president; Irma Harris of Greenwood Terrace as secretary; Lisa Rooks of College Hill Courts as correspondence-secretary; Lonnie Stewart of Mary Walker Towers as treasurer; Beulah Washington of Dogwood Manor as historian; and Karl Kendrick as parliamentarian.
Self-organized according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development rules and regulations, the CityWide Resident Council has elected officers from over six different public and subsidized housing communities across the city.
“We decided to form in response to the destruction of our public housing communities here in Chattanooga,” said George Walker, president of the CityWide Resident Council. “We’ve recently lost Harriet Tubman Homes and now College Hill Courts and East Lake Courts are scheduled for either demolition or sale in 2013. This is unacceptable and we will not allow it to happen on our watch.”
Since 1999, six public housing communities in Chattanooga have been destroyed. Currently, there are 2,942 public housing units left with 1,477 people on the closed waiting list. The CHA’s 2013 Annual Plan calls for the planned demolition or sale of College Hill Courts, East Lake Courts, Missionary Heights Apartments, and the Glenwood – Devel Lane development, with a timeframe for demolition or sale within 2013. If the proposed demolitions or sales are approved, nearly 1000 families and individuals would be displaced. Even though Federal regulations require that persons displaced from low-income public housing developments receive a Section 8 housing voucher to help with housing relocation, there must still be a sufficient number of landlords willing to take the vouchers for those displaced people to find homes.
“Where are you going to put a 1,000 low-income people if we tear down public housing? Are you going to send them to the Southside or an expensive condo in the NorthShore? The point is that there simply isn’t enough affordable housing in Chattanooga to house all these people. That’s why public housing is needed. This city is ours and we intend on staying here,” said Mr. Walker.
According to the Report on Affordable Housing, issued by the Westside Community Association and Chattanooga Organized for Action earlier in the year, over 50% of all people living in Chattanooga's urban core live in unaffordable housing and are burdened by housing costs. The report also cited an earlier Times Free Press article, which stated that Chattanooga has the third highest-rising rents in the nation. In addition, a 2010 Brookings Report determined that 43% of our city's population are classified as "low income" - making less than 200% of the federally recognized poverty line.
“All of these issues, from poverty to homelessness to a lack of affordable housing, disproportionately affect residents of public housing. But we pay our dues. We pay our taxes. Why shouldn’t we be treated as fair and as equal as everyone else?” said Mr. Walker.
The CityWide Resident Council will act as the authoritative advising body for the residents of public and subsidized housing and can replace the CHA’s Resident Advisory Board, a group of hand-picked residents meant to represent resident interests.
“The Resident Advisory Board did not come close to doing its job on informing residents on what’s going on. The residents that served on the Resident Advisory Board were hand-picked by CHA and ill-informed of what they were supposed to be doing. That’s why we’ve had to self-organize our own representative group. The HUD rules and regulations allow us this opportunity and we took advantage of it to further represent the interest of our residents.” said Mr. Walker
The CityWide Resident Council will also serve to help residents in other public housing communities organize their own Resident Council. Partnering with Chattanooga Organized for Action, a local community organizing non-profit organization, CityWide will provide residents with the skills and training necessary to form their own Resident Councils. Plans include establishing groups in College Hills, The Villages, Cromwell Hills, and Emma Wheeler Homes. Chattanooga Organized for Action had also partnered with public and subsidized housing residents to help them form the CityWide Resident Council.
The press conference will take place at the old Harriet Tubman Homes public housing community at the corner of 1900 Heaton St. and 2000 Roanoke Ave. The press conference will begin at 10 a.m. with a statement issued by Mr. Walker, followed by a question and answer session.
Additionally, any former residents of the Harriet Tubman Homes community who wish to honor their former homes and help save the remaining public housing communities are welcome to participate in the press conference are welcome to do so by meeting CityWide at the location of the press conference.