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National Housing Economist to Speak at TN Housing Summit

Press release from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency; August 26, 2013:

Nashville, TN, August 26, 2013 – Former Senior Economist at the National Association of Home Builders, Dr. Elliot Eisenberg, is a featured speaker at this year’s Governor’s Housing Summit on October 7-8 at the Music City Center in Nashville.

Eisenberg, an authority on the economic impact of homebuilding, consequences of government regulation, cost-benefit analysis, strategic business development and other current economic issues, will explain the current economic situation and the next steps to strengthen Tennessee’s housing market.

“Dr. Eisenberg specializes in making the arcana and minutia of economics fun, relevant and educational,” said Ralph M. Perrey, executive director Tennessee Housing Development Agency. “We know housing is a driver for the economy. We know everyone needs a safe, sound, affordable home. Tennessee’s housing industry members are taking time at the Summit to share best practices and build the relationships necessary for effective housing production.”

The Summit agenda includes sessions covering blight and tools to eradicate it, instructions on how to garner data from the U.S. Census Bureau website, Preserving Affordable Housing through Energy Efficiency Upgrades, Place-Based Strategies for Redevelopment, Appraisal Reform, and the Changing Mortgage Regulations. Tracks are focused for lenders, developers and rental housing. The full agenda is available at www.THDA.org.

Registration for the Governor’s Housing Summit is open online at www.THDA.org. Early registration ends August 30. The meeting opens with lunch on October 7 and ends with lunch October 8. Additional industry events are scheduled with the Summit. For more information about the Summit, please contact Patricia M. Smith at 615-815-2185.

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Kyle Spars With State Housing Agency on Memphis Blight

Memphis area state Sen. Jim Kyle took representatives from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to task Wednesday over what he sees as their failure to address abandoned housing and urban blight issues in his district.

While many lawmakers from less populated districts commended the agency’s work in their areas during a Government Operations Joint Subcommittee meeting, Kyle expressed frustration that the THDA hasn’t taken a more active role in repurposing abandoned homes, which he said encourage crime and contribute to poverty because they drive down property values in already poor neighborhoods.

“This agency is not seeing urban blight as part of its mission,” the Shelby County Democrat told THDA representatives. “If it is part of your mission, you’re not reaching the bar on your mission. If it’s not part of your mission, it needs to be,” he said.

“I’ve got 2,000 vacant homes in one neighborhood in my district, “ Kyle continued. “And for some reason those properties are just sitting there. I’ve got people living under bridges and I’ve got 2,000 empty homes.”

Housing Development Agency director Ralph Perrey, who testified before the subcommittee Wednesday, responded by defending the agency’s work in urban areas, telling legislators that they have had success with smaller initiatives and partnerships but that the issue of urban blight largely fell outside the scope of their purview and resources.

“We are actively engaged with nonprofit partners, with the city of Memphis, with Memphis housing,” Perrey told TNReport following the hearing. “I think within the bounds of what we were set up to do, we have been very actively engaged over there.”

“We were set up to be a housing finance agency and over the years we have also become the state’s instrument for implementing a variety of federal programs in Tennessee but we are not the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Perrey continued. “We do not have hundreds of millions of dollars of appropriated dollars as the feds do to put to work in an area.”

Kyle, however, didn’t seem to be buying it, telling TNReport “They really need to change their minds on that or face a battle for their existence.”

“We have a Tennessee Housing Development Agency and we have a lot of vacant homes in urban areas,” the senator added. “They need to be part of the solution.”

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THDA Rental Database Features 100K Properties

Press release from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency; March 14, 2013:

NASHVILLE, March 14, 2013 – One is all a renter needs, but the TNHousingSearch has 100,000 in the list.

Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) built a website, www.TNHousingSearch.org, and has been inviting property owners to post Tennessee rental properties of all sizes, shapes, locations and costs on the site for each searching by households wanting to rent a home.

“We serve as a resource for housing and housing information,” said Lorrie Shearon, THDA’s chief strategy officer. “If THDA can make it easier to connect a renter with a landlord, we want to try.”

The state housing finance agency partnered with Social Serve, a non-profit organization that combines technology with effective customer service to provide customized housing locators, to build the site, beginning in 2008. There are now 100,000 properties listed in the database across Tennessee’s 95 counties. Renters can initiate searches on-line by town name, requesting to see a list by bedroom size, or cost, or other requirement. Property owners can post
pictures and list useful information such as pet rules, washer and dryer connections, or access to public transportation.

Posting properties and searching for properties is free. THDA covers the cost of the site.

“We developed the site as a service to Tennesseans, or those wanting to move to Tennessee,” said Shearon. “If a family is being transferred here from Oregon, they can check on-line first to plan what properties they want to visit.”

An important feature of the site for property owners, is the ability to “hide” a unit when it is rented so renters are not given property addresses that are not available. At the same time, as soon as a landlord knows a unit will be available, a few keystrokes make it visible to the next searcher. The site can be searched in English or Spanish. For those who want personal assistance, the customer service desk at Social Serve (1.877.428.8844) will create a search and mail the results to the caller. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.

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Yager Demands ‘Fiscal Discipline’ from State Housing Development Agency

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; November 30, 2012:

NASHVILLE – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said today he has put the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) on notice regarding his committee’s intentions to carefully review their spending practices. THDA came under fire after lavish spending on employee-related activities was uncovered in an investigative report by WTVF-TV in Nashville. The State and Local Government Committee reviews THDA’s budget and is responsible for recommending changes to the full Senate in the agency’s spending plan.

“It is essential that not only you but also the entire agency recognize that THDA is a state agency,” said Chairman Yager in a letter to Perrey. “This demands the agency have the fiscal discipline that is expected of every state agency. In fact, the nature of the agency’s work is such that it should be held to an even higher standard.”

“The Senate Committee I chair on State and Local Government will be reviewing the progress you make in implementing needed reforms in the coming months,” the letter continued.

THDA was created by the General Assembly in 1973 to provide housing assistance to Tennesseans in need by offering a variety of housing-related programs, especially for those with low incomes. Until October, the agency was led by Executive Director Ted Fellman.

Perrey was questioned by Yager on Monday regarding the expenditures at a meeting of the Joint Fiscal Review Committee, which also has legislative oversight responsibilities for state spending.

“We’ve lost sight of the good you do because of these outrageous activities that were funded through your budget,” Yager told Perrey at that hearing.

He also asked Perrey about whether he expressed concerns as a former THDA Board member before being selected as the new Executive Director. Perrey said he was not aware of some of the more lavish expenditures but pledged that they would not be repeated.

“Director Perrey has given us his word that the Agency will not repeat these excessive expenditures and we are going to hold him to that,” added Yager. “We will be holding THDA fully accountable for the dollars they spend.”