Behind the Headlines – April 27, 2018

– (female narrator)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines is made possible in part by: The WKNO Production Fund, The WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you.
Thank you. – The head of housing
and community development, Paul Young, tonight on
Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of The Memphis Daily News, thanks for joining us. I am joined
tonight by Paul Young, head of Memphis Housing
and Community Development, thank you for being here again. – Thank you for having me. – And Bill Dries,
senior reporter with The Memphis Daily News. We were chatting a little bit
before the show about all the things that your
office is involved in, maybe we’ll start with some
of the bigger more high profile ones, but there are
such a range of things that Housing and
Community Development goes into. Talk about funding, and
how the Federal funding, because mostly what you
do is Federally funded, and how that’s
been affected by the new administration,
but let’s talk. Let’s start with South City. Which we’ve talked about before,
South City is the last of the big, traditional public
housing projects that is, I’ll let you say,
where does that stand? So just to orient people,
it’s the big housing project, over off Vance, probably
southeast from FedEx Forum, and off, if you’re driving to
FedEx Forum and you took a left you would see a
massive amount of work, and cleared land, and so forth. – Yeah, so South City is a
project that we are rolling on. It took us some time to actually
get to the construction phase because relocation
was a little more difficult than we had initially planned. If you can recall back when
we started the relocation of residents from Foote Homes,
Warren and Tulane apartments, which were closed down by the
Federal Government came on… they went offline
at the same time. So there were essentially a
thousand families that were out looking for housing at one time. And so it took a little bit more
time than we anticipated to get all of the residents relocated. That has since taken place. We closed on the first
phase back in March, and so you will soon see
structures coming up out of the ground on the east
side of Danny Thomas. And on the west
side of Danny Thomas, you still see the
buildings standing, those will be
demolished in the coming months. But we are actively
getting the project rolling, and so we’re excited to see
the new units coming online. If you can recall a
little bit about South City, it’s a very expansive project. It’s different than what
we call Hope VI project. Hope VI was the former
funding source that paid for the redevelopment
of public housing so, projects like Lamar Terrace–
– Which people would see– – Which you see
coming down Lamar, it’s now University Place–
– Right, at the 240 on ramp. – Exactly, you can
see them from 240, Legends Park was also
funded through Hope VI, College Park, Uptown–
– (Eric) Yeah. – This project, South City,
is being funded through an initiative called
Choice Neighborhoods. And with Choice Neighborhoods,
there was a focus on, not just renovating the
housing that’s on the site, but also looking at the
conditions around the housing. One of the things that
Hope VI was criticized for was because it didn’t have
a significant enough impact on improving the area around it. And so with this initiative we
have some programs that we want to see put in place in the
area around Foote Homes. So you’ll see things like an
early childhood center that we’re working to put in
place, and a grocery store, which we’re also working to
get established in that area, in addition to a
home repair programs, small business loans, all
of those things will start happening over the next year. – And just for scale, the number
of new residences going into South City in this phase
will be roughly how many? – Yeah, so, there were
420 units at Foote Homes, we’re rebuilding
712 units total. 480 of those units will
be considered affordable. Meaning those that earn less
than a certain income threshold will be able to
occupy those units. And so we’re actually
creating more affordable housing than existed before. But it will look new, and fresh,
and you won’t be able to look at one unit and
be able to tell whether it’s a market rate person
or family living there, or a low-income family. – And the funding for this,
the bulk of this funding is Federal funding,
is that correct? But there’s some local
money that comes in. – Yeah, so there was,
we had a $30 million grant that the city and the
Memphis Housing Authority received to
embark on the project. It was matched by $30 million
from the City of Memphis in capital improvement funds. There will be tax credits that
are administered through the Tennessee Housing Development
Agency in each phase. That will provide
a significant amount of equity for the project. Overall it’s about a
$210 million initiative. – And a certain amount of
that is private capital? Before I go to Bill. – There will be loans and tax
credits will also be involved. – Ok, let’s go to Bill. – So, Paul, once the structures
start coming out of the ground, do you start hearing from
the private capital on this, or have you already heard
from them on South City? – Yeah, our hope is that we
will certainly see more private interest as the
development actually happens. There’s a certain amount of
anxiety when you talk about these big projects, because
people don’t know whether it’s actually going
to happen or not. But now once we got the units
on the east side of the street down, people are now
believing that it’s real. So we’re hopeful that
we will start to see more interest from
the private sector. Particularly around
the grocery store. That’s one of the amenities that
we have committed to working to bring to fruition,
but it’s largely driven by a grocer wanting
to be in that area. So, we are, we have
worked on a market study. The market study shows that
the area could support it. So now our goal is to try to
find an operator that’s willing to partner to go into that area. – And on the other side of
Lauderdale you have what was Cleaborn Homes, which
is now Cleaborn Pointe. So I would think that
people being able to see that, they have a better
idea of what Foote, what used to be Foote
Homes is going to look like. – Yeah, if you go
down Lauderdale, that’s usually the street
that I ask people to go down. Especially before the units
came down from Foote Homes, because you could look on both
sides of the street and see the dichotomy, you could
see the difference, and the improvements that
Cleaborn Pointe had on the aesthetics of the neighborhood,
and seeing that on both sides of the street we feel is
going to be very important, and it’s also important to
note that there are three vacant schools
in that community. Vance, MLK Transitional
School which used to be Porter, as well as Georgia Elementary. And our team has secured options
to purchase those properties from the school board, should we
be able to find uses for them. At least two of them,
and that’s Georgia Elementary and the MLK
Transitional School. Our thinking is that
Georgia Elementary would be home for Girls, Inc.,
which is looking to expand their footprint in that area, as well as an
early childhood center. And with the MLK
Transitional School, we don’t have
specified uses yet, but we did want to secure an
option with hopes that we can find a use that will be
sufficient for that building. – So Shelby County
Schools is always looking, anytime there’s new development,
they have a department that’s devoted just to looking at what
the school-age population is. What does happen
with the school-age population in South City once the
new development is there. Is there more or is there less? – Yeah, there should
absolutely be more, I don’t know the
specific numbers. But the school board anticipates
that there will be growth in the area, obviously when all of
the residents were relocated, that had an impact on
schools in the area like BTW, which is immediately adjacent. So their hope,
and our hope, is that there will be more students,
school-age students in that area that will
populate those schools. – And Booker T. Washington
is now a grade 6 through 12 school–
– (Paul) Right. – in all of the transition
that has happened here. So there are a lot of
different elements of this. One of the ones that we got a
really good look at during the MLK 50 month or
week, in particular, what was Heritage Trail. Which was one of the
former names of South City, and now it’s
a key element that really focuses on
the history of that. What does Heritage Trail do for
South City in terms of letting people know what this area
once was and what it can be. – I think it amplifies the
importance of the development, and that area and what it
meant for the City of Memphis. Heritage Trail, for those that
do not know is an initiative where we are looking
to connect historical assets throughout the city. And a large portion
of those assets are in the South City area,
and downtown area. So you talk about assets
like the Civil Rights Museum, there are two new monuments and
parks that have been established with the MLK Reflection Park,
as well as I Am A Man Plaza. There are structures
like Clayborn Temple, the Universal Life building,
Withers Gallery on Beale Street; there are significant
assets that no community in this country can say that
they have that tell the story of Civil Rights better than
any other city in the country. And so we want to make sure that
we take command of those assets and tell our story
in a way that’s empowering for our residents,
but also create more economic impact
with regards to tourism. So we’re excited about having
Heritage Trail connected to the South City development, because
we think it’s going to be something that the
residents are proud of. – It’s interesting too, if
you drive around down there, there’s right at the corner of
Vance and it’s right on the lead into, I guess it would be
Danny Thomas and Vance, there’s a big apartment complex
going up that’s I believe private money, it may
have some incentives, but it’s primarily a
private development, that’s hundred of
apartments– – (Paul)
Yep. Right. – That’s right across the street
from the Universal Life building which is being renovated, and
all it’s history put to use now, you go farther
down Danny Thomas, there’s a huge
apartment development going in, that again, I belive is
private money– – (Paul)
It is. Right. – I believe there
were some incentives, so is that heartening to you,
that it isn’t just public money? And when you talk
about this Heritage Trail, it is interesting, the idea that
the trail would go through not, certainly not blighted
areas, nobody wants that, but places where
real Memphians live. So it’s not just a
tourist district, it’s not just a
tourist development. Is that intentional or is
that just how it played out? – It is, it’s
absolutely intentional, and if you think
about Heritage Trail, it’s organized with
a series of loops and so we have a Civil Rights loop,
and entertainment loop, there’s a broader loop that even
captures areas like Orange Mound where there’s significant
African-American history. And so it is intentional because
we want it to be an economic development tool for
our neighborhoods, and we’re certainly excited to
see the private sector becoming active in
development in those areas. The goal is always, when we make
a city investment we want it to be followed by
private sector capital, and so when we
see that happening, we know that we’re moving
in the right direction. – Probably fifteen
minutes left here, back to the grocery
store really quickly, because that always
gets people’s attention, and the whole
notion of food deserts, and we’ll talk about the
Kroger that’s leaving, and I don’t know what
involvement you might have in that project, but to get
a grocery into that area, will it take incentives, will
it be PILOT type incentives? I mean, I think that was
involved in terms of Binghampton and the grocery store
that has gone in at, what is that, Hollywood and…
Sam Cooper. I’m doing a lot of
directions today, I apologize. – (Paul)
[chuckles] You’re alright. – I apologize to
the viewers, really. That involved some incentives. Is that what it’s probably going
to take to get a grocery store into the South City area? – Yeah, more than likely. I mean when you look at
the grocery industry, they operate on
very slim margins. And so in order to make the
numbers work you traditionally have to give an incentive. Unless it’s going to be a high
grossing store where they know they’re going to
generate significant revenues. And this is an area that
is not necessarily proven, in terms of what it’s
going to be able to generate. And so it will
likely take an incentive. And we are exploring
what things we can put together to incent them to come. But we haven’t had
any active conversations with grocers as of yet. We’ve just been talking
to the experts and consultants that work with grocers. – And briefly, are
you at all involved in, the Kroger that’s leaving
South Memphis that’s frustrated a number of council
members and other folks, are you involved
in that effort to find some replacement, or…? – Yeah, we certainly have had
conversations about what impact Housing and Community
Development can have on trying to recruit and incent grocers
to come back to that area. Those discussions are ongoing. Our hope is that we look at
it from a global perspective, and because while these grocers
have left these two communities, it’s a broader issue
in the City of Memphis and how can we look
at improving food access for all of our neighborhoods
in a strategic way. And obviously we want to
address those that have closed, but also address neighborhoods that have gone
without for some time. – (Eric)
Bill. – So as we tape this,
we’re a day after the mayor’s budget proposal,
the third for his administration,
and as we were talking about, Housing and Community
Development is always one of the quickest reviews
that the council does because so much of your money comes
from the Federal Government. And with the change
in administration, you’ve actually seen
more Federal funding. – Yeah, so last year
there was a lot of talk about cutting funds
and there are a couple of funds that are really core
to the work that we do. One is called CDBG, Community
Development Block Grant funding. The City of Memphis receives
about $6 million annually, it’s the funding that
supports all of the staff, we have about 75 employees in Housing
and Community Development. They support a number of
different grants and initiatives and projects that are
happening throughout the city. There’s another stream
of funding called HOME. Which the acronym
actually means home, but it’s invested in
housing units across the city. And both of those were
supposed to be zeroed out. When the budget was
finalized earlier this year, those areas actually increased
beyond what they were last year. We don’t know what our
direct allocation will be yet, but we’re hopeful that
the trend will continue, because we have
significant needs in the city. – Right. So while the review by
the council is relatively easy, you can’t really breathe easy
because you’re looking at these Federal funds to
leverage what you want to do. And in the case of South City,
you’re looking at an area that’s much bigger than
any of the other public housing project conversions
that the city did. – Right. Yeah, I would say
Uptown was probably comprable, because Uptown was very
expansive and they used some other tools to try
to impact that area. But it is certainly bigger
than the ones that we’ve done most recently. And so we have
significant partnerships with the Federal
Governement and with the Tennessee Housing
Development Agency, and so we want to make sure that we can keep
those projects going so that we can
impact the residents that live in this city. I mean, that’s the bottom
line, at the end of the day, as complex as
these projects can be, it’s all about
securing affordable, quality housing for our
families in this city. – And this is an area that has
not seen this kind of investment in housing, in basic
housing for quite some time. – That’s correct. The units had been
renovated, I think in the ’90s, but since that time,
there’s been minimal investment. And so this is going to be a
significant shot in the arm for that whole area, and one of
the things that I’m most excited about, is as we make
these investments, the fear of
gentrification is a real fear. But when we make these
investments with Federal funds, one of the good things
about this is that those, the rental rates for those units
that we invest our dollars are held at an affordable
level, for 15 to 20 years. And so that means that the next
generation of families that move into those units will
also be able to thrive, even when the market
rates increase in that area. – Define, from
your point-of-view, gentrification and the
risks of it in these areas. Because I think some
people would sort of say, well that means progress,
that means people are moving in, that means investment. That’s contrary to what you were
saying earlier about being glad about private
investment in the area. Why is gentrification a
danger from your point-of-view? – Well, I do think it’s good
to see market-rates increase. But, gentrification to me is
when a family lives in an area, and they can no longer afford
to live there because the rates have increased so much
that they have to move out. And while that has certainly
happened in the City of Memphis, what we’ve seen more
of is displacement. We’ve seen us go in and renovate
public housing developments primarily, families
move, they’re relocated, but when the families come back,
whether those same families that were displaced or not come back,
there are families that come in that meet the same
income thresholds. We have a significant
waiting list in public housing. I think there’s about eight
thousand families that are waiting–
– (Eric) Eighty? – Eight thousand.
– (Eric) Ok. – Eight thousand families that are waiting to get public
housing vouchers. So we know that
there’s a significant need. When we talk
about gentrification, we want to see the
market rates increase, but we wan
to see affordability preserved for families that
want to be there. And so that’s why it’s
significant that we invest our public dollars in these areas
that can see significant growth. I feel like
communities like South City, Uptown, Binghampton, those are
areas where the market is going to turn, and you can
already see it shifting. And so it’s important
that we invest our dollars now so that we can preserve
affordability for those families that live there. And then the new
families that come in, we’re excited to have them
in those communities too. – How do you measure,
stay with this for a second, I mean you,
there’s all this money, the Federal money, there’s some
amount of local money as well, I’m sure some people are
listening and saying you know, what’s the distinction,
because it’s all tax dollars and I’m paying it out of
one pocket or the other, and how do you measure the
success of these endeavors, of these projects.
I mean is it, is it based on… and we’ve talked
about this before, back to a big conversation about
the role of public housing in terms of is it a
permanent place for people, or is it a transition
for people from public housing to private housing and so on. So how do you
measure outcomes as you put all this money
into South City? – Well there are a lot of
outcomes that need to be measured, but I think some
of the most important would be how are the people that
were in Foote Homes before faring after the development. Whether they moved back or not,
are their conditions better, are they earning more money? Have they achieved
educational milestones, have their kids achieved
educational milestones? That’s first and foremost.
How are the people doing? – (Eric)
And you’ll measure that? – Oh absolutely. And we are
currently measuring that. We have a team, Urban Strategies
is an organization that is working with the people. They have case
managers for each family, they’re working with
the Women’s Foundation to support that side
of the work. I think that’s
an important measurement that we have to look at. We also want to look
at the area around it. Are the incomes
for the family around Foote Homes able to increase? Before we started this projet,
and I don’t know the specific number, but it was
under $15,000 a year– – (Eric)
The average family income. Wow.
– the median income, and I think it was
closer to $11,000. And so when you’re talking
about that level of poverty, we have a significant
responsibility to improve those economic indicators. I think those are
the most significant factors that we can look at. – Before we go back
to Bill, what about, there are, we talked about some
of the other projects that were re-developed from
the kind-of faceless and pretty grim
environments, and we’ve talked
about that before. I’ve quoted you I think,
paraphrased you maybe, talking about public housing
having become a way to warehouse the poor in the ’50s and ’60s,
and that these efforts are a way to try to transform that into
opportunity and so on– – (Paul)
Right. – But when you look
at some of the other, there were ten or so other big
projects that have been done and converted in this
fashion, do you all track those? Do you look at the kind of
outcomes you just talked about, and I’m sure on
many people’s minds, yours included, is crime.
And the people living there, I mean first and foremost,
is crime. What, let’s just go there,
what is the impact on crime when these areas are
transformed over time? – So, I don’t know the
crime specific statistics, so I won’t, I won’t be
able to really speak to that. I think that overall, I think
anybody that you ask would say we haven’t done the best job
of ensuring that the families that move out are successful. And we’ve worked to do that,
but you know our success level at that has varied. Our goal is to ensure
that as we move forward we’ve learned from our mistakes. We don’t want to let families
fall through the cracks, but one thing that has to be
kept in mind is that sometimes the family just doesn’t want to
be bothered with government, and our assistance. And so we have to be
cognizant of that fact. And in terms of
success levels overall, I think the Housing Authority
would be able to speak more accurately to how
those have taken place, but from a city perspective,
we’re certainly interested in making sure that
we don’t repeat any mistakes we might have
made in the past. – Three minutes left, Bill. – And you reference
the waiting list, and the Memphis Housing
Authority does still exist, even amidst all of the
conversion of the larger projects, there are
public housing high-rises for senior citizens
that are still there. – (Paul)
Right. – So what is the role
of that kind of public housing going forward in Memphis? – I think public
housing is going to shift. You see more privatizing
for lack of a better word, trying to figure out how you can
get the private market to engage in supporting these families,
and not having one mega-large entity responsible
for all of the work. The Director,
Marsha Lewis and I, we work hand-in-hand
on a daily basis. We text and call each other
all day because there’s so many overlapping issues
that we work on, and I think her vision for the
agency is simply to see it be more efficient,
customer friendly, and ensuring that
in addition to providing the housing that the
other opportunities that families need
are able to be accessed. And I think that’s the important
shift is ensuring that as we house individuals
that are experiencing low-income circumstances,
that they’re able to shift their circumstances
to something better. And I think we need to put a
stronger emphasis on making sure that those connections are
made, that those families need. – Is there a middle ground between traditional
public housing in a development and what we used
to call Section Eight, which was basically
a voucher for some kind of private housing? – There is a middle
ground, and they call it RAD, but I don’t know enough,
quite frankly to explain it. But when Marsha Lewis is on,
she can tell you all about it. [all three laugh]
– With just a minute or so left, how, Memphis 3.0, which is the
big strategic plan for the city, we did a show recently talking
about some of the transportation recommendations that are
beginning to come out of Memphis 3.0, how will that
shape what you do, with public housing, but
with all the projects, I mean you’re involved
with the fairgrounds, you’re involved
with the Riverfront, PINCH district,
all kinds of things, we’ve focused
just on one element, which is the
public housing part. How will Memphis 3.0
influence what you all do? – Memphis 3.0 is going
to shape what every agency in the city does. It’s the organizing vision
for all of the work that we do, and it’s intended
to help us direct our investments in
a more wise manner. In terms of the work that we
do in Housing and Community Development, I’ve talked a
lot about some of the broader projects, and big projects,
but the core of our work, the bread and butter, is
trying to support families in neighborhoods, so as we look at
new was of incentivizing home repairs, new
neighborhood level development, we’re going to be using Memphis
3.0 as the guiding principle. – And with just a few,
20 seconds left here, the fairgrounds TDZ, you
were very involved in the fairgrounds, we
did shows on that, is that TDZ going to happen,
is it going to get tied up in the so-called punishment
by the legislature of Memphis over the statues? What’s the status on the
TDZ there and downtown? – We’re still working
to make both happen. We believe that we will be able
to have some information for the fairgrounds prepared for
the state by this summer. We ran into some challanges
with working the numbers, and then the downtown TDZ,
we’re looking forward to moving forward very, very soon. – We will I’m sure do a
whole other show on that. Thank you for
being here Paul Young, thank you for joining us, join us again, next week. [acoustic guitar chords]

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