Mr. Dahl’s Ideas to spur affordable housing and address people who live outdoors.

First, we have to ask ourselves what is affordable housing. The term affordable housing is used to describe housing, rental or owner-occupied, that is affordable no matter one’s income level. In the U.S., the most common definition is the one used by the federal government (HUD); this defines affordable housing as housing and related expenses (mortgages, utility bills, homeowners’/renters’ insurance, etc.) that do not exceed 30 percent of a household’s pre-tax income. Any household paying over that 30 percent marker is considered overburdened.!housing-landscape/n9k16 This standard can generally be applied across the U.S. and is even generally comparable to some other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. According to Harvard’s Joint Centre for Housing Studies, approximately one-third of US households are cost-burdened by housing, and more than a quarter of US renters spend more than half their income on housing. Current trend lines suggest the problem is getting worse. With Tennessee Ranking in 34th for the highest rent in 2012, we ranked 20th. If one makes 7.25 which is the minimum wage they would have to work 72 hours a week to afford a modest 1 bedroom rental home at Fair market value here in Chattanooga.

So What can the City do to address this issue?

The first step I would do is restructure the Chattanooga housing authority into a commission. This would allow it to be more accessible to the public. Then we need to look at the basic duties of the Housing Authority would consist of. and how it manages its funding. Their primary goal would be to ensure the upkeep of their existing properties. Have its primary funding go into a trust and assume control of the “Chattanooga Affordable Housing Trust Fund” the city has set up.,decent%20affordable%20homes%20in%20Chattanooga. Another function would ensure that public and private affordable housing developments comply with HUD standards and that they maintain compliance. They are to also issue housing vouchers and ensure that the tenants are protected from “Slum Lords”. Establish and set up a plan to maintain city-owned Urban Campsites. Invest in Tiny home Communities controlled through a separate trust. And they would work to get grants to fund not only their projects but public and private partnerships with oversite. They would be the agency that draws up and ensures compliance with the tax incentives for housing projects as well. Even though a government agency is to break even they would have an approach that asks what is the return of the investment.

So what is needed to get more people in housing in Chattanooga?

The city needs to ensure that it is allowing a vast array of housing types to be created, not just apartments. What we have seen in the last two years is a push to create more apartments in existing neighborhoods along with more Urban Sprawl. What we should be doing to address the issue is look at several different types of housing that can be added to the existing neighborhoods. For example, adding Tiny home communities that spur homeownership through a trust that after 6 years of maintaining the bills one has the opportunity to take over the bills and own something. The money collected from this would stay in a trust fund to continue and further this form of investment. We as a city can develop Urban campgrounds that charge a small fee or waive that fee for people who would like to work for the city either through a day labor program or volunteerism. A great location for an Urban campground would be the Carver rec center. Look into transforming old shopping centers into apartments. And having and promoting a variety of different house sizes while still maintaining the existing neighborhoods.

So what is needed to carry this out after the restructure?

Well for one the cities departments would have to ensure that they are able to work together. For example, the Regional Planning Agency, the Housing Authority, and also the Economic and Community development center would have to ensure that the type of housing that is needed is put into action. The newly established Neighborhood resource office would work with the community groups to ensure that the community is involved in the planning process. We have to also ensure we are awarding grants to agencies that are ethical and not out to take advantage of city resources. Also looking at the zoning rules and relaxing some of them for people who commit to affordable housing development and its guidelines. An example would be set back rules. The city should stick to its plan to address the homeless which was put out in 2018.

How technology can be utilized to address homelessness and affordable housing.

Technology can be used to aid in addressing the housing issue. One way is to create a real-time app that can track shelter beds. This would include bed availability for shelters, detox, substance use treatment and mental health services, and other types of public, private, and non-profit beds. Update the Housing Authorities website which would include an app that can track and collect data on affordable housing. This would help in streamlining housing vouchers, allow building a database to keep count and monitor the affordable housing units in the city. Technology can make it cheaper to generate new units. Homebuilding has benefitted from 3D printing and modular housing construction by companies like Blokable, which builds the parts of a house in a factory and then ships the parts to the site for assembly. We can also look into creating a “home-sharing service”. It is perhaps the classic example of a “sharing economy” platform. This service would provide a platform for matching people who are looking for a place to stay for a period of time with other people who have some sort of space available that they are willing to rent. Typically this space is a home, apartment, or extra bedroom, but could be anything – from a couch in a common area. We as a city have to turn to new concepts and ideas to deal with what we are seeing not only in Chattanooga but around the United States.

Sources and more information.

The cost of affordable housing: does it pencil out?

2019 Housing Connections Report Chattanooga

Tennessee Housing Development Agency 2020 housing Indicators: comparing TN’s Cities

Urban Institute