The Chattanooga Housing Authority voted to approve the multi-million dollar sale of the old Harriet Tubman projects Tuesday, and it will now be remodeled to become affordable housing once again.
The board of commissioners sold the 36-acre property to the best offer of $2.8 million from Lakewood Realty, a Chicago-based company.
"It's been a long process, and this didn't happen overnight. We, as a staff, have been working on this for over 2 years now," said Betsy McCright, of the Chattanooga Housing Authority. "We will forward that contract to (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) for approval. So, we're still subject to HUD approval. But we anticipate we should get approval fairly quickly because we exceeded the value of the property that HUD had asked for."
But some board commissioners wish better options had worked out.
"I'm disappointed that the city, from the standpoint, that we were not able to come to some terms. I think that what they had in mind was much better for the residents," said Jim Sattler, of the CHA Board of Commissioners.
McCright said Lakewood Realty plans to use $11 million to fix the existing buildings and divide up the 440 units for Section 8 tenants, market-rate and senior residents. Officials said the renovations will occur in two phases, by first installing new roofs and then repairing the interior.
HUD standards dictate that cost is about $35 million dollars, so the buyer's figure draws concern from city officials.
"I don't believe that's adequate. When you look at it in reality and they're talking about doing it in phases, they are not going to spend all that money at one time. I question the quality of the housing that is going to be available," said Yusuf Hakeem, the chairman of the Chattanooga city council.
Some commissioners and citizens said during the meeting they worry Lakewood won't keep the affordable housing plan. CHA officials said "the private company doesn't play by the same rules," and the property will not be government public housing.
CHA can only look after units designated as Section 8, McCright said.
"The $11 million may be enough to do some work, but it may not be enough to perpetuate into the 40-year range that we're required to do whenever we rehab a property," said McCright.
CHA officials said they hope to speed up the process to finalize the sale because Lakewood Realty want to close on the site before winter weather hits. By Briona Arradondo