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Watauga Court: Housing authority breaks ground on 16-unit housing complex

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 10, 2020 at 9:30 AM

The Johnson City Housing Authority broke ground Thursday on a new 16-unit apartment complex aimed at reducing the community’s shortage of low-income housing and helping stabilize seniors, people with disabilities, homeless veterans and teens aging out of the state foster care system.

Construction on phase one of the Watauga Court project — eight one- and two-bedroom, one-level apartments at 2007 East Watauga Avenue — is expected to begin this spring and to be completed within a year.

A start date for phase two construction of a second, identical ,eight-unit apartment building has not been set but is expected to be completed in 2023.

Funding for the project’s $1.3 million phase one was secured through a trifecta of grant awards from the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency and the Federal Home Loan Banks of Cincinnati and Atlanta.

JCHA Executive Director Richard McClain said the new complex will resemble the housing authority’s recently completed Baker Street complex of 24 single bedroom apartments for veterans and teens leaving foster care that was built over the past three years.

McClain said the Baker Street project has succeeded in stabilizing a number of young people who are now marrying and beginning families that require two-bedroom units that will be included in the new Watauga Court development.

He said the great hope is that the new affordable Watauga Court units will allow those young adults to continue on their path to becoming productive adults who no longer need public housing.

For homeless veterans who can not receive the stabilizing services they need if they can not be located, McClain said, “Housing is a first step.”

“If you can get an address on them, that’s going a long way,” toward helping them, McClain said.

THDA Industry and Government Affairs Liaison Katie Moore presented McClain with the THDA’s contribution of a $500,000 Housing Trust Fund Grant for the project.

Moore said the funding is the fifth consecutive $500,000 HTF grant THDA has awarded to the JCHA over the past five years and distinguishes the local housing authority for its success in the competitive grant program.

Representatives of the Federal Home Loan Banks of Atlanta and Cincinnati, which each awarded $400,000 grants for the Watauga Court project, also commended the JCHA for its efficient use of funding.

McClain said the Watauga Court project will require the demolition of up to ten duplex apartments built in the 1960s as part of the JCHA’s Fairview Housing Development.

The approximately 9-acre Fairview Development is next in line to be demolished, to be replaced with a 80-unit complex of new apartments as part of the JCHA’s comprehensive rebuild program.

McClain said approximately 20 JCHA residents displaced by the Dunbar and Watauga Court projects are currently moving into the new Dunbar complex.

With more than 200 families on the waiting list for JCHA housing, he said the Dunbar complex will be filled to capacity by the end of January. A ribbon cutting for the new Dunbar development is tentatively planned for April.

Grant applications for the Fairview rebuild will be filed in March with the possibility of funding awards coming at the end of the year.

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