Regional Planning Agency focuses on Chattanooga housing - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Regional Planning Agency focuses on future of Chattanooga housing

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chattanooga city leaders and developers, along with realtors and the public, gathered Monday night to take a hard look at the future of housing needs in the Scenic City.

The Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency unveiled the results of a year-long study.

The agency found that the population of 'Generation Y,' or 18 to late 20-year-olds, is growing and their housing needs are different, helping fuel a great demand for apartment living.

The baby-boomer generation is also growing, which will present its own challenges.

But the hot topic of the evening centered around creating more affordable housing.

Community members crowded into Battle Academy's gym, many concerned about the future of affordable housing in Chattanooga.

"Sixty or 70 percent of households that make less than $30,000 are spending more than 30 percent on housing, which is considered, that's over what's recommended nationally," says Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Bridger.

The group crunched numbers over the past year. As part of its study, the agency found the majority of people who make less than $20,000 a year live downtown. The only problem: a lack of housing options.

"One of the greatest difficulties we have is moving into neighborhoods, where we want to do small developments, public housing developments, or combination tax credit developments," says Betsy McCright, Executive Director of the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

McCright is anxious to see what the future holds for affordable housing.

"The need is significant. I will tell you that we have approximately 1,600 people on our public housing waiting list. We have about 4,800 people who are hoping to get a Section 8 voucher," she says.

Corchea Stamper knows the challenge all too well. She's a former resident of the closed down Harriet Tubman homes, who qualified for Section 8. It took her 8 months to find housing.

"It's kind of hard trying to find affordable rent. With the waiting list being closed it was very hard from a whole bunch of Harriet Tubman, people that were living out there, because we were looking for a very long time," says Stamper.

She supports what the agency found as a possible solution; taking advantage of the in-fill building opportunities, as long as neighbors support it.

"Many, many, many of our residents are working people," says McCright. "They're serving you in the restaurant you go to, they're cleaning up when you leave a hotel. They're good people and they have the same desires as non low income people, to have a place to raise your family, get your kids a good education and just have a home you can be proud of."

The planning agency gathered feedback from audience members. It plans to present its findings to the city council some time in January.

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