Breaking down Berke's budget: city wants funding for more afford - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Breaking down Berke's budget: city wants funding for more affordable housing

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On Wednesday, Chattanooga City Council got its first look at Mayor Andy Berke's proposed budget.

On top of pay raises for employees and an increase to the police force, Berke's administration wants to create a pilot program to get rid of vacant properties and build more affordable housing in the city.

The city currently owns hundreds of pieces of land, valued in the millions. Berke's office says building more affordable housing will create a ripple effect, drawing in more business, and growing the tax base.

"We have a tremendous, thousands of folks who are in need of housing that they can afford, either to purchase or to rent," says Donna Williams.

Donna Williams is the Administrator for the department of Economic and Community Development.

"The city owns lots and lots of vacant, unproductive property," she says.
As a part of Mayor Berke's proposed budget, the city wants to create a pilot program, bringing in private developers to build more affordable housing.

"You're really killing two birds with one stone because we're taking properties that are not productive at all and in some ways, in many cases, a detriment to the neighborhoods. And it's a great way to put those properties back in use, generate some tax-base revenue for the city and make our neighborhoods stronger," says Williams.

"I know that the mayor talked about developers coming to his door. Developers come to our doors too," says Kim White, president and CEO of River City Property Management.

White's company focuses on in-fill development downtown and bringing in more corporations. She says more affordable housing makes sense.

"The only way to grow our tax base is to get property values up. And we don't want to tax existing property owners. We get the values of the buildings up because we fill them. And I think by getting more residents, it's all based on how many more people can we get living in the city," says White.

A vacant piece of land that sits at 901 West 39th street in Alton Park is just one example of city owned property that could be tapped for development. Folks in the neighborhood say, there is plenty of potential for empty lots like the one on 39th.

"When you get a community like that, everybody seems to be closer together," says resident Billy Williams.

Williams says investing in the community means a more promising future for his grand kids.

"Responsibility. It'll teach them responsibility. When you're proud about something, you'll do better," he says.

Donna Williams says as soon as the council approves the budget, her department will go to work on the first phase of the pilot program. She says her office is already compiling a list of all the properties the city owns.

The council is holding work sessions the next two weeks to review Berke's budget and will be voted on later this month.

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