APSU's True Footprint Meets at Kraft Street
"Public housing in the United States was designed to fail. It was designed to be segregated; it was designed to be low-quality." - Peter Gowan, a senior policy associate with Democracy Collaborative
The community is a collection of standard brick buildings like others you'll find scattered among other communities throughout the country. Inside tip? That’s why you’ll hear residents refer to those areas as “The Bricks”.
It is unfortunate the Lincoln Homes community has been both neglected and also plagued by crime rates in similar ways to other public housing communities across the country. The fears of non-community support compounded by high-density populations living in these shared neighborhoods often motivate residents to move before their time. These relocation situations create a significant drain on communities. That decision-making stress point is due to those individuals having been social leaders that contributed to positive neighborhood environments. The process of loss then becomes a continual hollowing of neighborhoods, leaving residents with increased feelings of isolation and hopelessness.
Year after year campaign rhetoric remains the same, but improvement to these communities will not be delivered based on political and emotionally charged fundraising speeches: One viewpoint has these communities existing because of poor "work ethics". The other viewpoint will tell you residents are victims of a system regardless of their efforts. In an oddly unintentional way, the latter is typically correct - although not for the reasons campaign speeches cite.
What then becomes the best plan to dismantle a concentrated public housing system, without negatively affecting the most fragile residents?
Social housing is a concept often discussed in European communities as the solution to low-income residential plans. The programs are typically developed when a housing unit is built on government-owned land and sold to a private company, which then owns and operates the housing units under public oversight. And strategically, social housing is placed in desirable locations with architectural requirements and livability standards to ensure an attraction to residents throughout all incomes. Is it possible this plan could be a potential answer in a different part of the city? We just don't know. City officials have neglected to address the issue with residents and, by default, police officers which are placed into potentially avoidable situations within the community.
Cities throughout the country are moving residents from public housing areas into mixed income and affordable housing neighborhoods. We only need to look at two Tennessee cities for the pathway to improvement.
Memphis has led the way nationally with their decentralization of housing projects. The city has fully provided those residents with housing opportunities in mixed-income neighborhoods throughout the city and unique educational opportunities (personal and professional).
Ed Jennings Jr., former HUD regional administrator overseeing West Tennessee, had this to say about the reasons housing projects were removed and residents integrated into mixed income areas. The primary issues related to “problems of crime, education, and public health". Each issue being tied to governmental planning and budgeting programs.
In Nashville, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency is preparing to remove James A. Cayce Homes and move residents to other parts of the city. The conversation around plans for Cheatham Place housing, in emerging parts of town (Germantown.), is still being debated. It's an ongoing process with Nashville continuing to manage 13 other public housing communities.
When focusing on Clarksville’s APSU - Kraft Street area, it's obvious we have limited the growth potential for our community’s major university. APSU’s only area of growth is now opposite of College Street. This forced location for growth is a potential safety concern due to heavy traffic and the volume of students needing to cross. It is just not a non-pedestrian friendly transition from a beautifully manicured APSU campus onto a concrete footprint of College Street. The natural organic growth of the campus would be the extended area stretching from Farris Street to Kraft Street. Thoughtful planning and forecasting into the area’s 20-year potential is a crucial necessity at this point.
A blunt safety discussion surrounds APSU's growth and physical limitations of the general campus area. Growth limitations could be defined as reduced walkability, a confusing blend of policing between city & campus, reduced student enrollment growth, students preferring to live off campus, and/or lost development projects in the area. Take the time to review the last 90 days of crimes in the area. It's difficult to build a justification for non-action. And please don't make the mistake of believing those crimes are all being committed by residents of Lincoln Homes.
Additional planning for resident transition may involve creating APSU scholarship opportunities for current residents of Lincoln Homes. Perhaps the development of programs, with tuition free enrollment, for former Lincoln Homes residents. Maybe APSU sponsored business incubators could assist residents interested in a private business? Assist with home ownership programs? Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Whatever the resolution finally looks like, it cannot come to reality without first starting the conversation. And that conversation needs to include the residents of Lincoln Homes.
Let's just hope the solution isn't another failure to the residents as lone physical, cosmetic changes.