Neighbors Should Welcome More Neighbors With Union Avenue Development

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Residents of Chattanooga can look at Atlanta and Nashville and breath a sigh of relief that housing prices here are cheaper than those to the south and to the west. 

That will not continue to be the case, however, if we stifle new housing development at every turn. Home prices in Chattanooga rose at an average of 7.2 percent over the course of 2017,  and the median rent has risen at three times the rate of income over the last three decades. 

The rising cost of housing in Chattanooga is a prime indicator that there is demand for new housing, and if supply cannot rise to meet it, the prices will only continue to go up. With more and more people fleeing the northeast for southern cities, the need for housing will continue to increase, and if nothing is done, it will displace low-income residents. 

That brings us to Union Avenue. Accusations were made of residents of Highland Park by the CEO of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, a non-profit housing organization over a proposed apartment development on a vacant lot, and some concerns of the development should be addressed. 

It is unfair for the CEO of CNE to accuse the fine residents and my former neighbors in Highland Park of coded racism. There are plenty of reasons for someone to oppose new development without ulterior motivations. But that doesn’t mean the reasons stated are worth scrapping the apartments. 

At least one resident has complained that the apartments are ugly. The aesthetic value of any given building is subjective—which is why some people prefer certain homes to others—and is not a valid reason to exclude others from a chance to afford a place of their own. Arguing for the integrity or the character of the neighborhood falls along the same lines. Historical preservation taken to its extreme has lead to delaying housing projects over the significance of a laundromat.  

An underlying assumption in the attractiveness or character of a building is the effect it will have on others’ property. Given the current state of the lot is vacant and the previous use was a crumbling ruin of a dorm room, it would be hard to argue that converting that space into apartments will somehow decrease the value of surrounding homes. 

Another claim made was a desire for townhomes and a desire for “what’s best for the space.” Compare the supply of eight townhomes to the supply of 49 apartment units, and it becomes obvious why the apartments will go further to improve affordable housing in the neighborhood. And while some neighbors may deem single-family homes “what’s best” for the space,  the low-income worker who could have afforded an apartment but not a home would probably disagree. 

All three of these examples and more, including the always recurring line to “just build it over there” are forms of what’s called NIMBYism, or Not In My BackYard. It describes a mindset of people who are not opposed to development per se, but are opposed to it near their home.  

NIMBYism comes in many forms, and uses tools like historic preservation, multiple review processes, neighborhood character and the zoning code to block or draw out development to the point that it becomes infeasible. This leads to low-density development, inflated rent and home prices, and a housing affordability epidemic that is sweeping America’s legacy cities. 

That isn’t to dismiss the concerns of NIMBY advocates altogether, but rather, to address them head-on. Many of the historic walkable neighborhoods we have come to love in Chattanooga could not have been built under current codes. Creating a denser area attracts retail development, which could go a long way for Highland Park’s charm and economic growth.  

Density also creates what famed urbanist Jane Jacobs calls the “sidewalk ballet,” creating a place for various types of people during various types of day that keep sidewalks vibrant and keep eyes on the street—something that goes towards combating crime that has plagued Highland Park.  

Cities should be made to be enjoyed by everyone. As Jacobs puts it, “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Having experienced the beauty of Chattanooga myself, I can’t blame anyone for trying to find their place in our city. So instead of seeing the outward aesthetics of an apartment building, see instead the home it can create and the vitality it can bring. Make Highland Park a neighborhood for more neighbors. Be a neighbor for more neighbors. 

Ethan A. Greene
Former resident of Bailey Avenue, a graduate of UTC, a masters student of city and regional planning, and a writer on urban issues



Support Senator Rand Paul's One Penny Budget Reduction Plan

In response to an email I received from Senator Rand Paul (RandPac) on his One Penny Budget Plan, I contacted Senator Alexander’s and Senator Corker’s DC offices to 1) find out their approach to deficit reduction and 2) encourage them to support Senator Paul’s legislation if they don’t have a better approach.  In response, staffers at both senators’ offices stated they did ... (click for more)

There You Go Again, Hamilton County Schools Critics

The Hamilton County Schools "Nabobs of Negativity” are at it again. Despite the fact that the recent TVAAS growth scores for the Hamilton County Schools show credible gains in almost every category, the same old folks refuse to acknowledge it and insist on focusing on the negatives without putting them in context, constructing straw men to knock down and ignoring inconvenient positives. ... (click for more)

Authorities Say Hixson Man Shot And Killed His 15-Year-Old Son On Saturday Night; Also Killed Family Dog

Authorities said a Hixson man shot and killed his 15-year-old son on Saturday night. A report says Mike McElrath, 46, who was found naked at a neighbor's house, also killed the family dog. McElrath was a former Hamilton County corrections officer from 1996-1999. County deputies responded at 10:24 p.m. to 1846 Cotter Road. The residents said there was a man on their front ... (click for more)

Gary Douglas, 25, Shot Early Sunday Morning; Dewayne Stanley, 24, Is Arrested

Gary Douglas, 25, was shot early Sunday morning, and Dewayne Stanley, 24, was arrested.   The Chattanooga Police Department responded at approximately  3 a.m.   to a person shot on the 4700 block of Murray Lake Lane. Upon arrival, officers were able to locate Douglas, who was suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound.   Investigators ... (click for more)

Host Baylor 3-0 In Invitational Soccer Tournament

The Baylor girls soccer team won three games this past weekend in their own invitational tournament.   On Friday, Baylor beat Independence 2-0 in a game that was suspended due to lightning at the half.   Allya Cooper scored off an assist from Ara Rhodes and Mya McGee scored off an assist from Cambell Green.   Peyton Randolph earned the shutout ... (click for more)

Mocs Soccer Blanks Georgia Southern 3-0 Sunday Afternoon On The Road

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga earned a 3-0 shutout at Georgia Southern on a hot and humid  Sunday  afternoon. The Mocs start the season at 2-0 for the first time since 2009 and the Eagles are 0-2 in the opening weekend.   “Great performance on the road,” Chattanooga head coach Gavin McKinney said. “Georgia Southern is a tough opponent and we had ... (click for more)