Thu
Oct 26 2006
10:25 am

Bob Corker says on his website that he "founded a non-profit organization that has helped over 10,000 families secure affordable housing through low-interest loans and personal training in home maintenance."

There is no doubt that Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises is doing great work in Chattanooga to develop affordable housing while revitalizing neglected areas of the city, and Mr. Corker should be commended for his involvement. But once again, Mr. Corker appears to be exaggerating his record.

Read more after the jump...

According to CNE's history:

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Inc. (CNE) was founded in December 1986, as a result of citywide visioning process and a study conducted by The Enterprise Foundation on the condition of Chattanooga's housing. CNE is an incorporated, private non-profit, founded to lead a public-private housing initiative and was charged with the mission to provide the opportunity for all Chattanoogans to live in decent, fit and affordable housing. In 2002 CNE's mission was revised - the new mission is to be the City of Chattanooga's leading partner in the use of housing to build healthy, socio-economically diverse neighborhoods.

In 1978 the Lyndhurst Foundation, a local charitable foundation, became interested in fostering and promoting progress in the community. At the same time, Chattanooga's public officials were searching for a way to restore vitality to downtown Chattanooga and to bolster community pride. Those groups came together to lead a community-driven visioning effort called Vision 2000 that sought input from all levels of the community to develop a growth plan for the future. One of the main priorities for Chattanooga that was identified as a result of Vision 2000 was the need to ensure decent housing was available for all Chattanoogans. [..]

In light of the Vision 2000 meetings, leaders from the city of Chattanooga, Hamilton County, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and a number of banks, private citizens and corporations joined together to make a long-term commitment to housing. The goal was to dramatically improve existing housing, develop new housing and to generally revitalize inner-city neighborhoods. The Enterprise Foundation conducted a study that identified over 10,000 sub-standard housing units in 26 city neighborhoods. Armed with this information, CNE was formed.

So leaders from the City of Chattanooga, Hamilton Co., the Lyndhurst Foundation, and others joined together and sought input from all levels of the community. There is no mention of Bob Corker's role. But to his credit, he is listed as a "founding director" and the organization's first chairman. It's not clear if he falls in the "private citizen" or "corporations" category.

According to their history, he served one other two year term as chairman in 1991. Note that Mr. Corker says on his website that he "founded" the organization. Shouldn't he give credit to the hundreds of others involved?

But moving on to "affordable housing". Somewhere along the way (on Mayor Corker's watch?) the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise adopted a curious interpretation of "affordable housing."

For example, the Southern Railway Building:

The historic restoration of this three-story former office building for Southern Railway located at 1301 Market Street provides 11,350 square feet of space on the ground floor occupied by the offices of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise.

Additionally, 24 one-and two-bedroom loft rental apartments were developed on the upper two floors.

According to the Chattanooga Apartment Guide, the one bedroom lofts start at $750, and the two bedroom lofts start at $995.

Then there's First and Market, completed in 2004, with more phases planned:

The two-bedroom, two-bath condominiums feature views over the Aquarium Plaza and Market Street, and each has access to a rooftop terrace, which allows panoramic views of downtown, the riverfront and surrounding mountains. The condominiums also have their own gated-off street parking on site.

Two additional phases of the development are planned and will include a total of eight 1,750-square foot town homes with views of the Walnut Street Bridge and Maclellan Island, as well as the Aquarium Plaza and the Tennessee River.

Fudge Works, a new fudge shop, has already leased 980 square feet of ground floor retail space. The company produces hand-made fudge on site.

Because luxury condos with hand-made fudge on site are top on the list of desirables for low-income people looking for affordable housing.

(Wait a second. Downtown luxury condos with retail space for a candy store? Why does that sound familiar? Maybe because Knoxville has never had an original idea so we have to copy Chattanooga? Mayor Corker and First and Market, then Mayor Haslam and the Candy Factory. Chattanooga Riverfront, then the South Waterfront project. What's next?)

It should also be noted that while Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises is doing good work to provide affordable housing, there are millions being funneled through this organization and at some point it all ends up in the pockets of builders, developers, and banks who make the loans. One figure cited from several years ago was $140 million. I'm surprised Mayor Haslam hasn't brought this idea to Knoxville along with luxury condos with candy shops and riverfront development projects, given the strong Chattanooga connections between the Haslam family and the City of Knoxville.

And just as a bit of trivia, Fannie Mae is one of their partners. This would be the same Fannie Mae that Bob Corker has accused of waste and fraud, and the same Fannie Mae that hired Harold Ford Sr. as their lobbyist according to Mr. Corker, as if that were a bad thing for some reason or other.

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Tennessee Liberal's picture

CNE

It's a very interesting beast - as a very recent former Chattanoogan, I couldn't quite get my arms around CNE. When I was apartment shopping in Chattanooga a couple of years ago, I came across two common themes: (1) CNE apartments all cost too much for me to live in; (2) that's okay, because they didn't ever return a single call I made to them.

All this is by way of saying this -- to call CNE "affordable housing" uses a pretty wide definition of affordable, and you're right, for him to take credit for it as a public service is pretty weak.

I'll say what I've said for some time: Bob Corker was a fine mayor for Chattanooga, and I mean that. But passing national legislation has nothing to do with how you run a city. I don't trust Corker with national tax policy, I don't trust him with foreign affiars, and I don't trust him to represent my interests.

michael kaplan's picture

r. neal wrote: "I'm

r. neal wrote:

"I'm surprised Mayor Haslam hasn't brought this idea to Knoxville along with luxury condos with candy shops and riverfront development projects, given the strong Chattanooga connections between the Haslam family and the City of Knoxville."

good investigative reporting .. maybe you should move to knoxville and challenge the mayor next year ..

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