Donna Williams and Joshua Haston gave a short presentation that led to a long discussion about LDG Development’s request for a PILOT (Payment in lieu of Taxes tax break) that will add around 240 affordable housing units to Alton Park. This happened during the Tuesday agenda meeting.
The Reserve at Mountain Pass is listed as a $52 million project.
“We’ve been around for 25 years, and over this time we’ve built around 17,000 units, and we’re looking forward to adding another 240 units in the Alton Park community,” Mr.
Haston told the council. “We believe everyone deserves a quality place to call home. We know housing is in dire need, and we’re looking for your approval. This project is located at 4905 Central Ave., and pretty close to the Tennessee and Georgia line.”
He said the housing will be mixed-income, and that LDG is looking to improve infrastructure around the area in ways such as repaving and resurfacing Kirkland Avenue and improving drainage around the property while also preserving a wetland.
“All of the buildings will be three stories, and we’re making sure we protect the hillsides in this area, and maintaining some of the tree canopy on the borders,” Mr. Haston said. “Beyond just building the property, we know this site will help catalyze economic development in the area.”
When asked by Councilman Darrin Ledford about contracting local workers, Mr. Haston said that is something LDG does. While the main contractor is not from Chattanooga, he said all of the subcontractors are local. Mr. Haston told the council around 200 construction jobs will be needed, and six permanent jobs are required in perpetuity.
“We have our own general contractor that builds our properties, and even though we have our own GC, we hire everything on the subcontractor level locally,” Mr. Haston said. “That’s part of what LGD does with our long-term commitments. We’re hoping this isn’t the last project we do in Chattanooga. So yes we will be hiring locally.”
According to the PowerPoint, all of the units will be two or three bedrooms, and will be affordable for a variety of incomes. He said these units will have “amenities you wouldn’t expect in affordable housing.”
“We anticipate breaking ground this summer, so we’ll be able to start leasing up in late 2022, and finish completion in 2023,” Mr. Haston said. “What we’re requesting is a 16-year pilot based on the improved value of property taxes over that time frame. Will generate $1.8 million in revenue for schools.”
Councilman Russell Gilbert asked if Section A vouchers will be available for the apartments, and Mr. Haston said that the 30 percent AMI (average median income) units “will be largely based on vouchers given to us by the housing authority.” Donna Williams, who heads city economic and community development, told the council 180 of the units will serve the community with 30 AMI and 60 AMI.
“So this week we’re considering a PILOT for a housing project, and next week we’ll be considering one too,” Chairman Chip Henderson said. “My question is trying to gauge and determine how many of these projects do we need all at one time? This falls under a fiscal responsibility move, and balancing that with affordable housing needs.”
“You’re going to pay for it one way or another,” Ms. Williams responded. “Why don’t they have anywhere else to go? Many of the folks we’re helping with the COVID relief on the rental side, the day they moved in they were doomed to fail, because they ended up renting a place they couldn’t afford because they needed shelter for their family and they rented what they could find.”
Chairman Henderson said he wanted to see statistics related to how many homeless people end up being moved from their situation and into the apartments. Ms. Williams said these numbers can and will be kept. Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said she did not appreciate how all of the affordable housing projects in Chattanooga seem to be clustered in one area, when every part of the city is struggling with affordable housing.
“Affordable housing needs to be across the city of Chattanooga,” Councilwoman Coonrod said. “The PILOTS are just creating the saturation of those living in poverty living stacked on top of each other. I think people in each district should have the ability to have affordable housing.”
“I agree with you wholeheartedly, but the realities are that the city doesn’t own any housing,” replied Ms. Williams. “We don’t own any buildings or apartments. The 2,270 units of affordable housing or income restricted housing has been produced and preserved in this community. The city has, other than the PILOTs, has no money in those properties. It was about a quarter of a billion dollars in investments.”
“The projects are where the developers can afford to buy the land, complete the project, and attract tenants. The developer also has to be willing to rezone the property too,” she added.