City establishes community-wide working group, welcomes new consultants with a week-long series of events

The Kelly administration is set to accelerate the creation and preservation of affordable housing through its One Chattanooga Affordable Housing Action Plan, which kicks off this week in an effort to expedite solutions that increase housing opportunities for all Chattanoogans.

With support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the American Rescue Plan Act, Mayor Tim Kelly has already helped fund the development of more than 600 new affordable units since he took office, which will be coming online on a rolling basis over the next two years. The affordable housing action plan will build on that momentum by prioritizing policies and programs that both preserve existing affordable units and make it easier for developers to create new units in areas where they will have the greatest impact.

“The lack of affordable housing in Chattanooga is one of the most important issues we are facing as a community, and while we’ve been able to fund a strong pipeline of new affordable units, there’s more we can do to fuel additional investment and support residents who are struggling to stay in their homes right now,” said Kelly. “That’s why, for the first time in Chattanooga’s history, we’re bringing together leaders from every sector of our community to put the right policies and programs in place that will solve our housing crisis for good.”

To inform the development of the plan, the administration has convened a 30-person working group of city and county government officials, local service providers, housing providers, builders, lenders, and representatives from local community and philanthropic organizations. 

The group, which will meet for the first time this Wednesday, will convene a total of four times over the next seven months to:

The Kelly administration is also welcoming new consultant groups, who will work under the leadership of Chief Housing Officer Nicole Heyman on the development and implementation of the housing action plan. Arriving in Chattanooga this week, the consultants will join the working group’s kickoff meeting and participate in three additional roundtable discussions with local community leaders, focused on affordable housing development, preservation, and financing.  

“Housing accessibility is an issue that touches everyone, from your child’s preschool teacher, to your first responders, to community leaders and business executives looking to attract new talent,” said Heyman. “That’s why it’s critical for us to work with the community to create a toolbox of innovative incentives that will support Chattanoogans at every level, and I’m excited about the public-private partnerships we now have in place to make that happen.”

The consultant groups will work with the community over the next seven months to gather information and make recommendations for the action plan. 

Together, they will analyze Chattanooga’s existing housing market, identify priority areas for investment, recommend approaches for deploying public and private funding, and prioritize programs and policies to accelerate affordable housing creation and preservation. 

The City estimates the full plan will be completed this fall, after which an expanded set of financial incentives will be announced to drive more affordable housing options. 

What is affordable housing?

When some people hear the term “affordable housing,” they think of big towers and concentrated poverty. But affordable housing simply means that every Chattanoogan has access to safe, quality, housing that is affordable to them, no matter their income, socioeconomic background, education, or zip code.

What’s affordable? The federal government defines housing as affordable when the occupant is spending no more than 30 percent of their income on their home, including rent or mortgage payments and utilities. People spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing are considered severely cost burdened. 

For example, the average income for a grocery store worker in Chattanooga is around $29,000 per year. That means to live without being cost burdened, they would have to find an affordable rent of $735 per month, including utilities.