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The transformation of Lee Apartments

Matthew Lane • Oct 2, 2017 at 9:35 AM

KINGSPORT -– The demolition of Lee Apartments will be moving forward after the first of the year.

What’s the plan?

The Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority wants to transform the Midtown neighborhood, from roughly Myrtle to Dale and Tennessee to Poplar. The main part of the plan calls for demolishing Lee Apartments and replacing the complex with 51 new and town houses.

The entire project is estimated to cost $51 million with Kingsport agreeing earlier this year to pitch in $3 million for its portion. The remainder is coming from a variety of state and federal sources.

In addition, the KHRA plans to remodel and rehabilitate the remainder of its public housing units at Cloud Apartments, Dogwood Terrace, Holly Hills and Tiffany Court. These locations would receive infrastructure improvements, new plumbing and electrical and interior upgrades, such as new flooring, bathrooms, paint and interior surfaces.

What’s happened so far?

Five years ago, the KHRA began planning for the transformation of the Midtown neighborhood, applying for $11 million in federal housing tax credits to go toward the project. However, the KHRA did not make the cut for those credits.

The housing authority then revised the plan and sought non-competitive tax credits. In August, the KHRA received approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the demolition of Lee Apartments and since then has been working with the 120 families living there on how best to relocate them during the project.

Residents will receive vouchers, which will work much like Section 8 vouchers, KHRA Deputy Director Maria Catron said. Families can use the voucher to go with a private landlord, a single-family home or apartment in Kingsport; in any of the six counties covered by the KHRA; or move to another housing authority elsewhere in the country.

The KHRA will cover the moving costs for the residents of Lee and any costs associated with deposits for power, water or the transfer of services like cable, Internet or telephone.

What happens next?

The demolition of Lee Apartment is expected to begin after the first of the year and take about 30 months to complete. The KHRA does not anticipate any permanent displacement during this time.

Once the project is complete, KHRA officials say they will continue to transition out of the public housing arena. That means KHRA’s funding will still come from HUD, but the money will come from a different pot. In this case, the Section 8 program.

The federal government has a deed of trust against public housing properties across the country, and various authorities administer public housing programs on those properties. In the near future, HUD will release the deed of trust on the local properties to the KHRA.

In short, the KHRA, rather than the federal government, will own those properties.

“It’s a big deal because it allows the KHRA to hopefully have the flexibility to maintain the units and not be constrained by the amount of subsidy appropriated by Congress,” said Terry Cunningham, executive director of the KHRA. “The KHRA can spend money on it and not have to wait on the federal government.”

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