Chattanooga City Council members were briefed on the findings of a comprehensive housing study conducted over the past year by the Regional Planning Agency Tuesday evening.
John Bridger, director for the RPA, presented an overview of the study to council members and suggested the city form a Housing Task Force to review findings and recommendations of the 83-page study and put polices forward that would encourage livable, safe and affordable housing for residents of Chattanooga.
The presentation came one month after initial findings of the study were put before community members at a presentation conducted by Bridger in November.
The survey found that household populations have changed significantly in Chattanooga since the 1970s, dropping from an average 2.9 persons to a current average of 2.3 persons. At the same time, the city has a dwindling supply of undeveloped lots, and more than 10,200 parcels of lots scattered across Chattanooga are sitting vacant.
Add to that affordability issues, with 51 percent of households with income between $20,000 and $34,999 qualifying as housing-cost burdened (meaning they spend more than 30 percent of pretax income on housing), and officials said the time to address housing is now.
"These findings implicate a call to action if Chattanooga is to realize its full potential to meet the changing housing needs of all its citizens," the report reads. "… The good news is that the local housing market is rebounding. However, if Chattanooga is to continue attracting new residents and maintain affordable housing options for all its citizens, this city will need to implement new policies and tools to meet their housing and lifestyle needs."
Among the suggestions mentioned by Bridger on Tuesday were identifying strategies for both urban and suburban areas, establishing policies for moderate and high-density residential development close to centers of activity, and ensuring pedestrian linkages to those same activity hubs.
Bridger also suggested that city resources could possibly be allocated to remove blighted structures in the city, which took away from the desirability of certain areas.
Reaction from council members to Bridger's overview was favorable. Councilman Jack Benson called it "profound."
"I think this is the most pragmatic and profound study I've heard since I got on the council," Benson said.
To read the full Chattanooga Housing Study, click here.
In other news, the council voted unanimously to approve the designating of $500,000 to an ongoing effort to plan for the next 40 years of growth in the greater Chattanooga area, also known as the Thrive 2055 initiative.