City to give away land for affordable housing

August 31, 2013, 9:01 am


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Chattanooga has begun a pilot program in which the city will give land to private developers if they agree to build affordable, quality housing.

Mayor Andy Berke says the Affordable Housing Program Pilot will focus on properties that belong to the city because of tax claims but aren't currently being used. He says many properties are vacant or contain dilapidated homes.

Berke told The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/12LgXk3) that the program will benefit the neighborhoods where the properties are located and the city.

"We have this land," Berke said, standing in an empty lot. "It's hurting neighborhoods instead of helping. We can partner with private developers who will put their own money into turning this lot into a real opportunity for the city."

Berke has proposed a budget allocation of $500,000, which would help get properties in condition to be developed.

Donna Williams, administrator in the city's Economic and Community Development division, says the city owns about 200 vacant lots but not all are suitable for development. She says leaders hope that 25-30 homes are built in the first year of the project.

"The city will do all the work to make sure the site is construction-ready," she said. "By that we mean it's been surveyed, it's zoned properly, any infrastructure as far as sewer (is in place), so that the developer can just come in and start building a house."

Williams said developers also will be able to apply for federal programs and grants to help with the project.

By giving the properties away, instead of selling them at auction, the city retains some control over how the land is developed.

"This allows us to focus in on developers who are going to do quality, and to put some built-in standards that say if you're going to be here, it has to be quality," Berke said, adding, "If you focus in on quality and you focus in on affordability, that's something you can't do when you just turn over property on the courthouse steps."

Berke said he hopes the city efforts will inspire residents of those neighborhoods to improve their properties, which would increase the quality of the entire neighborhoods.

Developer Bobby Adamson, who owns Adamson Developers, said he plans to participate in the project.

"Somewhere in our lives we have to learn that we have to give back to our communities, and this is part of giving back to the community," Adamson said.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press,

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