By Megan Boatwright
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Tuesday, the Public Housing Authority approved a plan that could lead to the demolition of half of the city's public housing areas.
It's a five year plan, required by the federal government, and it was approved by the Chattanooga Housing Authority board at noon Tuesday.
The plan marks for demolition or sale, nearly 1,500 units that are currently occupied.
In return, CHA would move away from barracks-style housing, and move to smaller communities with a mix of incomes.
"What we did is we included in our plan if we were to get some money from HUD or some other source for demolition or rehab. We identified certain developments where we would target those funds," says Public Housing Authority Director, Betsy McCright.
"Basically I have mixed emotions about it," says community Pastor Jeff Seay.
Seay has been a pastor at the Temple of Faith Deliverance for 8 years. Located right across the street from East Lake Courts, most of his congregation is made up of people who live in public housing.
"From an economical perspective I think it would be good for the community," he says of the plan. "For the people who have been displaced, the poor, I'm really concerned about them."
Jessica Lawrence has lived at East Lake Courts for over 10 years. There's nothing mixed about her feelings. She's mad.
"Where are these people going to go," she asks. "They have to have somewhere to put them."
Lawrence just learned of the CHA plan. As the president of an organization representing the residents of public housing, she believes she should have been informed.
"I don't think they should just dump a person out like they're animals," Lawrence says.
The Public Housing Authority says that's not what they're doing; although the 5-year-plan looks and sounds final, it's far from it.
"Somehow residents have been lead to believe the housing authority is going to be demolishing their homes in the next year or 5 years," says Betsy McCright, CHA Executive Director. "Not so, not the case."
The CHA board did approve the 5-year-plan, but McCright says HUD would still have to sign off on any demolition before it takes place.
"We put markers in place," she says, describing the plan. "So if by chance we are able to get a grant of multiple millions of dollars we'd be able to move forward with it, because we marked it in the plan."
HUD wants to move away from large housing sites and toward multi-family complexes. CHA took that into consideration when designating units for demolition. The housing authority also says if funding for demolition becomes available, they would relocate residents in each of those units.
In fact, Director McCright says they would have to have a relocation plan in place before the demolition.