City to begin soliciting proposals to transform Airport Inn into 70+ units of supportive housing, amidst record-breaking progress in rapidly housing residents experiencing homelessness

The City of Chattanooga will begin soliciting proposals this week to identify contractors to transform the dilapidated Airport Inn property located at 7725 Lee Highway into a new permanent supportive housing complex for more than 70 Chattanoogans in need. 

City Council voted tonight to approve the request for proposals (RFP), which includes a detailed scope of work for renovating the building and staffing and managing the complex to ensure the project’s success. The deadline to submit proposals is February 15, and the City will notify awardees the week of March 4. 

“Permanent supportive housing is a proven strategy to help chronically homeless people move off the streets and rebuild their lives, but there simply aren’t enough supportive housing units in our city right now to support the rise in homelessness we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic,” said Mayor Tim Kelly. “That’s why we are moving full steam ahead on this project, which will provide a home and hope to more than seventy Chattanoogans in need. I’m grateful to City Council for their ongoing support as we take these critical next steps toward ending homelessness in our community.” 

The RFP for the project is the result of months of work by City staff, in collaboration with the community and service providers with subject-matter expertise. The City has hosted three community sessions on the project since October 2022, including two roundtable discussion sessions to solicit feedback for the development of the RFP.  

The final RFP reflects much of the community input received during those sessions and upholds the contract with the community Kelly released after first announcing the details of the project. For example, it prioritizes proposals for rehabilitation and renovation that include plans for facade improvements, landscaping, and integration of indoor and outdoor community spaces. It also calls for property management and supportive services proposals that include 24/7 onsite security or active monitoring, as well as plans for resident transportation and employment referrals. 

Developers who respond to the site rehabilitation and renovation portion of the RFP will be expected to provide a financing plan for the work that does not require additional City investment. Instead, developers are being asked to include potential sources of equity and debt financing, as well as any expected affordable housing financing required from local, state or federal sources.

Similarly, service providers who apply will be asked to provide details of anticipated subsidies and use of subsidized vouchers, as well as a summary of their experience and competitiveness in securing those funding sources. 

Record-Breaking Progress Rapidly Housing Residents in Need

Despite the documented shortage of permanent supportive housing units in the City – more than 400 according to the most recently available research from the Center for Supportive Housing – the City’s Office of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (OHSH) has significantly increased its capacity to rapidly place residents experiencing homelessness in permanent housing, reaching record levels over the past year. 

Since April 2021, OHSH and its partners have housed more than 2000 residents experiencing homelessness, including 98 in December alone. The percentage of people still housed after one year has also increased, from 93 percent in 2021 to 97 percent in 2022. 

The record-breaking progress is detailed on OHSH’s new website, which also summarizes the Kelly administration’s approach to ending homelessness in Chattanooga

OHSH Director Sam Wolfe credits the success to increased coordination with local service providers and community organizations, which has allowed the Office to fill service gaps and reduce overlap across partners. These improvements were also crucial to the team’s ability to efficiently and effectively find housing for the households who were displaced as a result of the Budgetel closing in November. 

“Our office has really hit its stride this year, internally and in collaboration with the community,” said Wolfe. “We’ve established a strong coalition of partners who we work with around the clock, every day, to find housing solutions for residents in need based on their specific circumstances. It’s because of that increase in coordination and partnership that we were able to prevent more than 120 households – including more than 100 children – from becoming homeless after the Budgetel closed. And it’s why we are continuing to see substantial increases in the number of Chattanoogans who are moving off the streets toward a better future.” 

OHSH’s rapid rehousing program will be further enhanced by the development of additional permanent supportive housing units, which is a key component of the Kelly administration’s approach to ending homelessness. As a proven best practice nationwide, permanent supportive housing couples apartment units with around-the-clock support services to help keep chronically homeless individuals housed for good. 

At the same time, Mayor Kelly is focusing on a number of long-term solutions to prevent homelessness before it occurs, including increasing affordable housing, building pathways to good-paying jobs, and partnering on multiple initiatives to keep vulnerable people in their homes – including home repair programs and the Eviction Prevention and Diversion Initiatives.