Mayor Tim Kelly announced the launch of his affordable housing initiative this spring, with a total investment of $100 million over five years to generate more affordable housing stock in Chattanooga.
The goal is to help close the gap of an estimated 5,000-plus homes needed at more affordable price points for Chattanooga residents, particularly those earning low to moderate incomes. The Mayor remarked on how Chattanoogans have been impacted significantly by an 80.7% increase in median housing prices since 2015.
Per the announcement, 43% of Chattanooga renters now spend 30% or more of their income on housing, classifying them as “housing burdened.” Additionally, 22% are spending more than 50% of their income on housing and are thus considered “housing insecure.”
Mayor Kelly proposes to allocate funds from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill as well as the American Rescue Plan Act and area private investors toward the $100 million initiative, thereby avoiding any potential tax increases for city residents.
“During the Chamber’s Velocity 2040 planning process, local residents and our members and stakeholders placed ‘ensuring everyone in the community has a chance to earn enough money to live’ among their top-three actions Chattanooga should pursue first,” says Mary Beth Ikard, Interim Director of Talent Engagement, Chattanooga Chamber. “It’s really quite simple when you think about it: Businesses need talent to thrive, and talent needs access to a home they can enjoy and build a life in—but most importantly, they need access to a home they can afford.”
In Velocity 2040, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, after a robust stakeholder-input process, outlined goals for decreasing the cost of living while increasing quality of life. Community members weighed in with their understanding of what factors would make Chattanooga a desirable place to live in the year 2040. This data is now drawn upon as a recurring resource for Chamber members and staff, in the work they do in partnership with Hamilton County leaders to build thriving local communities for all who call the Scenic City “home”—through improvements to education, workforce development, livability, job creation and more.
The supply of affordable housing plays a key role toward that end: One popular feature of the Chamber’s talent-recruitment website, ChattanoogaCalling.com, is a cost-of-living calculator — a tool that helps to demonstrate Chattanooga’s relatively lower cost of living when stacked up against those of other U.S. cities.
“An affordable housing campaign is critical to an inclusive economic growth strategy. Rapid hikes in home prices and rental rates displace longtime residents who are essential to shared prosperity for Chattanooga and Hamilton County,” says Lorne Steedley, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Chattanooga Chamber. “An inclusive housing policy is essential to Chattanooga’s economic ecosystem. That’s especially true of a market experiencing rapid increases in rental rates and housing cost.”
The end of this calendar year could bring the first housing-development projects to receive a funding subsidy under Mayor Kelly’s newly-announced initiative.
As job opportunities stand to increase in a post-pandemic economy, an adequate supply of affordable housing for this incoming population, as well as longtime native residents, can help to ensure equity of access to the middle class across the greater-Chattanooga region.
Get involved with the housing initiative by filling this form, here.