On Public Housing … or just the latest story

Who knew that a story announcing the first day of community development week – and the ongoing work in East Knoxville public housing – would generate so much attention?

And confusion. Wow. In the limited space that a printed product provides, it’s hard to cram all details into clear, compelling news story. So here’s a little background.

This story was about the ongoing work of the city, KCDC and others to replace public housing in the area of Walter P. Taylor and Five Points. Kizzie Wallace’s tale was used to help lead into that story. Alvin Nance said the project’s goal is to decrease density and spread public housing across the 700-or-so vacant lots in the East Knoxville neighborhood between Five Points and Burlington. This is an area of the city that’s one of its poorest, and public housing is common in the area (or Section 8 vouchers – which are public funds used to pay landlords). Another goal is to reduce the violence that occurs there, which is why I sought out another person from the public to speak with on the matter.

I did not check Wallace’s Facebook background because (and this is not the sole reason) she is a member of the public, not a public servant. In most cases, elected officials receive the greatest amount of attention regarding their backgrounds. That scrutiny level drops somewhat as we move the lens to public administrators and finally, general public employees. Granted, that’s not a firm rule (particularly when we’re writing about someone who has been arrested). But when we’re talking with the general public – say, someone on the street, or a regular person out in the world trying to buy a gallon of gas – we treat them as the regular citizens, not as stewards of public funds. Wallace was interviewed because she lives in the house where the ribbon cutting occurred in a neighborhood where ongoing development has been happening with public funds (See the first point.)

Wallace has a job.

Overall, the cost of construction for these homes can be costly because the properties that KCDC takes on tend to be more challenging – this is Nance’s explanation. For example, Nance said, a nearby lot had an old busted home on it that had to be torn down in order to be built upon again. Once they pulled down the first house, they found a foundation from another home under it that had to be pulled up. Dirt on the site was also not suitable for rebuilding. Nance said that a typical contractor would have likely cut bait at that point and worked elsewhere – even though the lot is across from a park. KCDC keeps working, he said, putting up a home on a difficult property that’s aimed to raise property values for the neighborhood with the hope of inviting further private development later. Again, his words, not mine.


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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