Neighbors Should Welcome More Neighbors With Union Avenue Development

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Residents of Chattanooga can look at Atlanta and Nashville and breath a sigh of relief that housing prices here are cheaper than those to the south and to the west. 

That will not continue to be the case, however, if we stifle new housing development at every turn. Home prices in Chattanooga rose at an average of 7.2 percent over the course of 2017,  and the median rent has risen at three times the rate of income over the last three decades. 

The rising cost of housing in Chattanooga is a prime indicator that there is demand for new housing, and if supply cannot rise to meet it, the prices will only continue to go up. With more and more people fleeing the northeast for southern cities, the need for housing will continue to increase, and if nothing is done, it will displace low-income residents. 

That brings us to Union Avenue. Accusations were made of residents of Highland Park by the CEO of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, a non-profit housing organization over a proposed apartment development on a vacant lot, and some concerns of the development should be addressed. 

It is unfair for the CEO of CNE to accuse the fine residents and my former neighbors in Highland Park of coded racism. There are plenty of reasons for someone to oppose new development without ulterior motivations. But that doesn’t mean the reasons stated are worth scrapping the apartments. 

At least one resident has complained that the apartments are ugly. The aesthetic value of any given building is subjective—which is why some people prefer certain homes to others—and is not a valid reason to exclude others from a chance to afford a place of their own. Arguing for the integrity or the character of the neighborhood falls along the same lines. Historical preservation taken to its extreme has lead to delaying housing projects over the significance of a laundromat.  

An underlying assumption in the attractiveness or character of a building is the effect it will have on others’ property. Given the current state of the lot is vacant and the previous use was a crumbling ruin of a dorm room, it would be hard to argue that converting that space into apartments will somehow decrease the value of surrounding homes. 

Another claim made was a desire for townhomes and a desire for “what’s best for the space.” Compare the supply of eight townhomes to the supply of 49 apartment units, and it becomes obvious why the apartments will go further to improve affordable housing in the neighborhood. And while some neighbors may deem single-family homes “what’s best” for the space,  the low-income worker who could have afforded an apartment but not a home would probably disagree. 

All three of these examples and more, including the always recurring line to “just build it over there” are forms of what’s called NIMBYism, or Not In My BackYard. It describes a mindset of people who are not opposed to development per se, but are opposed to it near their home.  

NIMBYism comes in many forms, and uses tools like historic preservation, multiple review processes, neighborhood character and the zoning code to block or draw out development to the point that it becomes infeasible. This leads to low-density development, inflated rent and home prices, and a housing affordability epidemic that is sweeping America’s legacy cities. 

That isn’t to dismiss the concerns of NIMBY advocates altogether, but rather, to address them head-on. Many of the historic walkable neighborhoods we have come to love in Chattanooga could not have been built under current codes. Creating a denser area attracts retail development, which could go a long way for Highland Park’s charm and economic growth.  

Density also creates what famed urbanist Jane Jacobs calls the “sidewalk ballet,” creating a place for various types of people during various types of day that keep sidewalks vibrant and keep eyes on the street—something that goes towards combating crime that has plagued Highland Park.  

Cities should be made to be enjoyed by everyone. As Jacobs puts it, “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Having experienced the beauty of Chattanooga myself, I can’t blame anyone for trying to find their place in our city. So instead of seeing the outward aesthetics of an apartment building, see instead the home it can create and the vitality it can bring. Make Highland Park a neighborhood for more neighbors. Be a neighbor for more neighbors. 

Ethan A. Greene
Former resident of Bailey Avenue, a graduate of UTC, a masters student of city and regional planning, and a writer on urban issues


Jim Morgan - My Coach And Neighbor

Don’t Trust County Attorney Taylor’s Gag Order

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification


Upon Jim Morgan's death, my mind and heart flooded back to my memories of growing up in Chattanooga. I thought I would share my fond memories of such a great man. A few thoughts for ... (click for more)

At this point, most of us are aware of the WWTA debacle on site selection and the half-baked planning for a new treatment plant on Mahan Gap Road. There were also untruths given to the ... (click for more)

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone ... (click for more)


Opinion

Jim Morgan - My Coach And Neighbor

Upon Jim Morgan's death, my mind and heart flooded back to my memories of growing up in Chattanooga. I thought I would share my fond memories of such a great man. A few thoughts for one of the sweetest and finest men I ever knew: I remember Jim Morgan "Coach" not just as one of his wrestlers, but as a close family friend, teacher and neighbor. While Coach was my ... (click for more)

Don’t Trust County Attorney Taylor’s Gag Order

At this point, most of us are aware of the WWTA debacle on site selection and the half-baked planning for a new treatment plant on Mahan Gap Road. There were also untruths given to the public about the basis or need for a new treatment plant on Mahan Gap Road by WWTA. That, my friends, is offensive. Pam Sohn of the Times Free Press outed the WWTA’s false contention ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Chattanooga Area Motorists Warned To Beware Of "Black Ice" As Temperatures Plunge

Chattanooga area motorists are warned to be cautious about possible "black Ice" as temperatures plunge following heavy moisture. The arrival of Arctic air brought temperatures down from the high 50s on Saturday evening to below freezing on Lookout Mountain by Sunday morning. Here is a Special Weather Statement from the National Weather Service: SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT ... (click for more)

Some Roads In Hixson And Middle Valley Are Partially Flooded

Several local roads in the Hixson and Middle Valley area are experiencing partial flooding and standing water due to heavy rain, authorities said. The area of 7600 Middle Valley Road and 13700 Lillard Road are experiencing water on or near the roadway. The 10500 block of Hixson Pike and the 2900 block of Igou Ferry Road are also experiencing standing water over the roadway. ... (click for more)

Sports

Baylor Sweeps Matches With Father Ryan, MBA

McCallie hosted four dual meet wrestling matches Saturday afternoon involving Baylor and two Division II teams from Nashville, including Father Ryan and Montgomery Bell Academy. Top-ranked and unbeaten Baylor stayed that way as they topped Father Ryan by a 42-36 final in the opener while rolling past MBA by a 60-12 margin. A moment of silence was observed before the first ... (click for more)

Brainerd Hangs On To Hand Tyner 1st 6-AA Loss

Despite an uncharacteristic first half of the season, the rumors of Brainerd High School’s basketball death among the District 6-AA kingpins has been greatly exaggerated and Saturday afternoon inside the comfy warm surroundings of the High-Jackson Gymnasium the Panthers made that loud and clear from the opening tipoff. The Panthers forced 12 first-quarter turnovers and raced ... (click for more)