published Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Chattanooga agency seeks affordable housing solutions

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The Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency's affordable housing study is online at www.chcrpa.org

The city should give incentives to developers who build affordable housing and charge a fee to those who don't, Chattanooga's Regional Planning Agency recommended Monday.

John Bridger, executive director for the planning agency, said Chattanooga can promote more affordable housing by changing its zoning and building codes to accommodate homeowners renting single accessory apartment units in their houses and by allowing more moderate density projects such as two- to three-unit dwellings in established suburban neighborhoods.

Bridger gave the recommendations to about 100 residents, bankers, designers and housing industry professionals who met at Battle Academy Monday to hear the results of his yearlong study. Bridger said the demand for housing has changed from larger single-family homes to smaller homes and apartments. The study outlined how hard it is still for many people to find affordable and livable housing.

Bridger said the council asked the planning agency to do the study to see if any policy changes should be made to improve housing options for low- and moderate-income Chattanoogans.

The study suggested the city cut development fees and provide property tax breaks to developers who build more affordable housing. The study also suggests developers who don't build affordable housing pay a fee to an agency that would work to provide such housing in another area.

City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said there needs to be a predetermined boundary on how much the city will make available in incentives without compensating tax dollars coming in.

Buck Shimpf, a developer on the panel, flat out opposed having developers pay a fee for not building affordable housing.

But Westside resident Karl Epperson said he makes less than $10,000 a year and is forced to decide whether to buy toilet paper or dog food. He said it's hard for him to listen to developers object to a building fee.

"They just don't get it," he said after leaving the meeting.

Developer Don Moon explained that building affordable housing in the downtown area is not attractive to developers because of the expense.

Bridger said he plans to use feedback from the housing study to create an action plan to present to the City Council in January.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6431.

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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