APSU's True Footprint Meets at Kraft Street
Updated: Apr 15
"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
Lincoln Homes is a 262-unit public housing complex built in 1951. The community is a collection of standard brick buildings like others you'll find scattered among other communities around the country. Inside tip? That’s why you’ll hear residents refer to those areas in Clarksville as “The Bricks”.
It is unfortunate this community has been neglected and plagued by crime rates similar to public housing communities across the US. It is the fears of non-community support, accompanied by fears of a small percentage of neighbors living in shared neighborhoods, that often motivate residents into moving. These situations create a significant drain on communities due to those individuals leaving having been social leaders that contributed to positive neighborhood environments. The process of loss then becomes a continual hollowing out of neighborhoods leaving residents with increased feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Year after year, it fails to change due to the beliefs of both political parties: One school of thought stating it's the result of poor "work ethic". The other will tell you residents are victims to the system and stuck regardless of their efforts. In an oddly unintentional way, the latter is typically correct. Then what becomes the best plan to dismantle a concentrated public housing system, without negatively impacting 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.
Throughout the country there are cities relocating residents from the 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.
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 largely tied to governmental planning and budgeting programs.
In Nashville, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency is preparing to remove James A. Cayce Homes and relocate residents to other parts of the city. The conversation around plans for Cheatham Place housing, located in emerging parts of town (Germantown.), is still being debated. It's an ongoing work in progress 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 on the opposite side 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 the street. It's just not a pedestrian friendly transition from a beautiful manicured APSU setting to unlimited concrete. The preferred organic growth would be the extended area of campus stretching from Farris Street to Kraft Street. Thoughtful planning and forecasting into the area’s 20-year potential is a crucial need at this point.
A very blunt discussion surrounds APSU's growth and limits created by concerns for safety in the general area. Growth limitations could be defined as lost student enrollment, students preferring to live off campus or lost development projects for the area. Take the time to review the last 90 days of crimes in the Lincoln Homes community. It's hard to build justification of non-action by not doing right by APSU's growth potential or the residents of that community's quality of life. And please don't make the mistake of believing those crimes are all being committed by residents.
Maybe additional plans would involve creating APSU scholarship opportunities for current residents of Lincoln Homes? Maybe the development of programs, with free enrollment, for residents working to learn skills for enhanced employment opportunities? Maybe APSU sponsored business incubators could assist residents interested in a private business? 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.