published Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Rising unpaid rent hits CHA

Evictions for Nonpayment

Year—Number Evicted



2010 —117

2011 (through 06/29)—56

CHA Loss

2008 —$98,029

2009 —$125,486

2010 —$144,999

Source: CHA

The Chattanooga Housing Authority evicted 378 people for unpaid rent and lost more than $368,000 in unpaid rental fees from 2008 to 2010.

Last year’s loss was almost 50 percent greater than the write-off in 2008. That’s when then-CHA executive director Bob Dull predicted that the problem was only going to get worse because of the economy.

“I’m sure it’s the economy,” said Eddie Holmes, CHA’s board chairman. “You have less people working. People have less money to provide for their livelihood.”

Minimum rent for public housing residents with no income is $50 a month, and no resident can be charged more than a third of his or her income for rent, said Holmes.

“I don’t think they can go any place to find rent cheaper,” he said.

Even so, 56 people have been evicted for unpaid rent so far this year. There were 117 evictions in all of 2010.

About 400 public housing residents, just over 10 percent of the estimated 3,000 public housing residents, paid minimum rent in 2008, records show. In that year CHA wrote off $98,029 in unpaid fees. The amount of unpaid rent increased to $144,999 in 2010.

The loss of rent means the housing authority has less money for operating expenses, officials said.

“HUD reduces the amount of subsidy that we receive dollar for dollar by the rental income that is charged,” said Philippe Lindsay, CHA’s chief financial officer. “Bad debt expense reduces the amount of funds available to address critical needs at our developments.”

All residents are given opportunity to sign a repayment agreement if they can’t pay their rent, Lindsay said.

“As long as the terms of that repayment agreement are met the eviction process does not begin even though the tenant is technically late,” he said.

Residents may also qualify for a hardship rent exemption if the family income has decreased because the head of the household lost a job or died.

And if tenants notify a community service representative when they expect to have difficulty, the representative will try to find a social service agency or church that may help them, CHA officials said earlier.

Melissa Pinion, 32, lived in Emma Wheeler Homes public housing site for one year before falling a month behind on her rent this month.

“I’ve got six kids,” she said when asked how she got behind.

Until last month she paid her rent with the help of friends and family. She said she’s been trying to find a job and has applied at several fast-food restaurants and retail stores at Hamilton Place mall, but still hasn’t found work.

“I’ll do anything,” she said. “Wash dishes, mop floors, any job.”

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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328Kwebsite said...

In the 90s we predicated the housing bubble by changing the way we financed public housing. Republicans were not willing to pay to house people. The compromise that was struck during the Clinton administration was that housing projects would be built, bought and paid for like any other block of housing. Then, when the baby boomers started retiring, they realized that a big hunk of their investment banking gambles were on these housing projects.

The projects had new buildings and new financing that looks just like every other housing financing: except the rich were able to deduce, when computing the value of their retirement paychecks, that these particular neighborhoods were filled with "subprime" borrowers.

The housing bubble is not just about irresponsible borrowing against home equity. It's also about the outright racist refusal to help poor people, particularly poor people with the wrong color of skin.

So, the rich weren't going to pay for it. They tried to dump the cost of housing projects back on all of us, all at once, because they needed money now. They have to spend all their cash so that they can cruise on Medicare and Medicaid in their final days.

And here we see echoes of that same attitude by trying to compute this as unpaid rent.

Get real. No one in our community is hiring anybody. Of course people in the projects, which they still are, are having a harder time finding work. There is a social stigma attached with those addresses; mostly because we perpetuate it by not meeting people face to face and cooperating with one another.

How are the poorest of poor people in our community going to get work when people are not hiring? Look how we spend our money. We go to Big Box stores and give it all to people who give it to China. We finance so much of our lives that even with six figure salaries some of our local people still cannot hire an employee. Big paychecks have been squandered, in advance, on big debt for shiny toys.

Trickle down economics works, when it's time to get screwed. It does not work when people will not hire or pay subordinates. Greed destroys the flow of goods and services.

Evicting people who need help when we are giving six figure salaries to political cronies is the wrong thing to do. It's what our local Republicans and Libertarians continue to advocate. It's how they are spending our tax dollars: on themselves instead of on those whom they were elected to serve.

July 3, 2011 at 10:27 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

As long as there is no reasonable way for these people in public housing to be employed, we are not helping our local economy by evicting them. While public housing does need a mechanism for disciplining tenants who aggressively fail to cooperate with basic policies, punishing people just for being poor is not the right idea. We need to ensure that the directives we are sending to our officials in charge of public housing are reasonable and adequately supported.

It's obvious that's not being done under the current administrations of City and County government. We must come up with an alternative. We must install leaders who keep the community's interest as their own, and we must pay for these facilities and services which help our poor.

That means if the poor cannot find jobs, we need to tax rich landlords into making up the difference. The amounts involved could easily be covered by tax increases on the wealthy desperately needed in this area. Those slated to lead the way include those who have profited most from the last three Chattanooga Mayors: commercial landowners and bulk residential property holders.

Time to tax the landlords.

July 3, 2011 at 10:28 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

If you want to understand the perils of paying for housing, don't just look at the problems that arose with credit default swaps. Ms. Brooksley Born, who should be lionized and remembered throughout history for her valiant efforts to protect the value of our money, did her best to head up the CFTC, but that's almost a distraction.

It's not just about derivatives. In a way, that's some spin to try to get us to understand some of the smoke and mirrors behind the problem. The horrors of secret markets for derivatives was and is true: but, there is a much simpler and uglier side of this problem which had a great deal more power and influence over the average buyer and seller of investments.

That influence was wielded through a racist view of the assessments of residential properties as housing projects, "neighborhood associations."

The rich didn't believe the poor would be able to pay for their housing. During the 90s Newt and the Republican Congress rose to power. They demanded a re-negotiation, while wanting a total elimination, of anything that looked like President Johnson's Great Society. They wanted to change the way we paid, or stop that paying altogether, for housing projects.

They would only agree to the deal if we held the poor to the same kinds of enforcement terms as everyone else. That's the deal that got put in place. We had a ten year game of chicken over the impending debt. When the clock ran out, the rich dumped their investments in the market and bailed out. The critical time was a weld of the maximum time limits on the housing contract payments and when a glut of people got to retire. A huge lump of unpayable "toxic" debt hit us all: this is how so many banks made deals with so little collateral.

The rich had demanded that we grade these public housing projects as any other home loan. Yet, it's obvious that there would be no build up of paid-off fractions of a home. This means each deal for a housing project was its own debt bomb.

So, how do you pick 'em?

If you're the rich guy who's trading the investments, how do you know if the mortgage is subprime? How do you know that investment security does not match what a good deal should be?

The name on the deal, the location of the deal, the bottom line of each section of the deal: name, location and profit: just as housing projects have always been described.

Now, we're blaming these people for not making rent. We've known it all along.

People do not want to live in the poorest housing conditions available. They will naturally want to improve their conditions. We do not have to worry about moral hazard to the degree that these rich tyrants insist upon. Living in the projects will be ugly enough to make people want to improve themselves.

We need to face those facts, and finance housing projects accordingly. Shaking down the poor for rent will not cut it. They need to save their money to get out.

July 3, 2011 at 10:58 a.m.
xyzyra said...

Here's a suggestion: CHA hires a lot of outside contractors to maintain the lawns in public housing, make repairs etc. Why not offer those out of work tenants the opportunity to have those jobs and pay them instead? CHA use to hire individuals from right on the premises of public housing. It worked then, why can't it work now?

If an individual loses his*her job and their unemployment benefits have been exhausted they have no income coming in which means they can't pay their rent.

July 3, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

If people don't pay rent, they should be evicted. Where are they going to go? Who cares! Why should these people take from the taxpayers that work, pay their rent (or mortgage), pay for their health insurance, and don't have multiple babies that they can not afford.

July 3, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.
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