Tennessee's Best full size

Celebrating the best of Tennessee’s affordable housing success stories.

The Tennessee’s Best awards honor outstanding individuals and organizations whose contributions on behalf of affordable housing – whether producing, designing, developing, financing or promoting housing policy – inspire others to serve Tennesseans’ housing needs.

The 2017 nominees are:

Best in Innovation, Programing

Dismas House
Dismas House was established in 1974 by Father Jack Hickey and a group of Vanderbilt University students who wanted to create a safe haven for former offenders. The clients were transitioning out of prison. The team desired a place that would build a deeper sense of community for all parties and would help former offenders find supportive services, obtain jobs and become full and successful participants in the larger society. That vision was the genesis of Dismas House, which opened in Nashville later that year as an extension of the Vanderbilt Prison Project. Dismas has received its first Tennessee Housing Trust Fund grant in 2017 to build a larger facility in Nashville.

NeighborWorks® Alliance TennCare pilots – HomeSource east tennessee, Affordable Housing Resources, United Housing
Three Tennessee NeighborWorks® America organizations each received $300,000 to create permanent housing for clients using TennCare. HomeSource east tennessee (Knoxville) is building group homes. Affordable Housing Resources (Nashville) is working on 500-square foot micro homes. United Housing (Memphis) is building three-bedroom homes.

Highland Resources
Words matter. Highlands Residential Services recognized their housing services to communities in the Highland Rim and Upper Cumberland areas would be better understood if they left behind their original name, Cookeville Housing Authority. Their programs and services are designed to help residents prosper in their futures.

Best in Innovation, Financing

Columbia Housing Authority and LHP
The Oakwood Apartments proposal, a partnership between Columbia Housing and LHP, is the recipient of THDA’s first Innovation Round Competitive Housing Credits. Oakwood Apartments is a public housing development owned by CHRC. In 2015, CHRC was granted a Rental Assistance Demonstration grant from HUD which allowed CHRC to pursue financing options and fund extensive public housing renovations. CHRC and LHP developed a creative mix of competitive and noncompetitive housing credits which would provide financing to renovate, not only Oakwood Apartments, but also two other developments.

Appalachia Service Project
The Sevier County fires of November 2016 ravaged many areas of the Great Smoky Mountains. About 2,400 structures, including homes, were destroyed countywide. Developers historically have struggled to make housing affordable in the mountainous area; the fires put the problem in sharp and broad public focus. The Appalachia Service Project (ASP) coordinated with Sevier County staff and others to generate support to rebuild 25 homes for fire victims. ASP used THDA’s Rebuild and Recover program award of $393,750 as a stimulus for additional financial support to fund this rebuilding effort.

Excellence in Partnership

Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless
When the fires broke out in Sevier County in November 2016, few affordable housing organizations existed locally, much less those able to mobilize quickly to shelter the displaced. Few available units existed but that didn’t stop the tireless efforts of Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless. The TVCH took the helm of a monumental feat that continues. TVCH, in partnership with the Helen Ross McNabb Center and Family Promise of Blount County, worked with a THDA $164,000 Emergency Solutions Grant to rapidly re-house fire victims. They worked to find available units; they worked with clients to determine their immediate and future needs; and they worked with additional funders to allow their clients to be effectively helped. Thanks to their efforts, HUD workers recognized Sevier’s unique situation in the wake of the disaster and provided a regulation exception, and the East Tennessee Foundation was crucial in providing additional funding. These groups serve as a wonderful example of coordinating to meet the needs of Tennesseans, especially in crisis.

Memphis HCD
One of the new efforts by the City of Memphis’ Division of Housing & Community Development (HCD) is the weatherization of multi-family complexes. HCD weatherized a total of 64 units in two multi-family complexes during the 2016 Program Year. Memphis’ work to enhance energy efficiency of multi-family units under the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is the first such activity in Tennessee undertaken since THDA began administration of WAP in 2012. These weatherization projects assist Tennesseans living in the highest energy cost burdened area in the country. The weatherization program saves energy, saves money, improves the safety of homes, and the health of the residents.

Chattanooga Commitment to End Veterans’ Homelessness
The City of Chattanooga just three years ago pledged to end veteran homelessness. On February 3, 2017 HUD and the VA declared that Chattanooga had instituted infrastructure and processes to “ensure that any Veteran experiencing homelessness…will get the support they need to quickly obtain a permanent home” according to a letter from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. This is a major accomplishment for our veterans, and for Chattanooga, that was made possible through the work of many strong partners.

Highmark Holdings and Enfield Management
Highmark Holdings and Enfield Management work to improve and enrich the lives of families in their communities by providing opportunities for growth and personal development. They collaborate with community, government, corporate and faith partners to provide quality programs and services to residents. Examples of these programs include youth development, healthy living and nutrition, reading and financial literacy efforts, and crime prevention. This is in addition to veterans support, resource fairs and back-to-school giveaways.

TN Department of Human Resources (DOHR)
Commissioner Rebecca Hunter and the State Department of Human Resources were instrumental in helping THDA build awareness about a new initiative for State of Tennessee employees: the STEP IN Program (State of Tennessee Employee Partnership Initiative). They ensured print material was provided to many HR departments and included program descriptions in network newsletters. The majority of the STEP IN customers are in the very first stages of understanding home ownership and reaching them at the ground level is important to their success. THDA has delivered 250+ coupon codes fulfilling the request for a discounted online homebuyer education session.

Remarkable Achievement, Rural

Appalachia Service Project
The Sevier County fires of November 2016 ravaged many areas of the Great Smoky Mountains. About 2,400 structures, including homes, were destroyed countywide. Developers historically have struggled to make housing affordable in the mountainous area; the fires put the problem in sharp and broad public focus. The Appalachia Service Project (ASP) coordinated with Sevier County staff and others to generate support to rebuild 25 homes for fire victims. ASP used THDA’s Rebuild and Recover program award of $393,750 as a stimulus for additional financial support to fund this rebuilding effort.

In 2009, the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprise (Fahe), along with national partners, worked to establish a pilot with USDA Rural Housing Service, creating a nonprofit loan packaging system that significantly improved the delivery of 502 direct mortgages for rural families across the nation. This innovative Pilot became a permanent program in May, 2016, allowing intermediaries, like Fahe, to conduct quality assurance reviews on the loan application packages, provide training, technical assistance and support to the certified loan packagers, as well as outreach for additional loan packagers within their state coverage area. Since Fiscal Year 2016, the agency has directly partnered with USDA Rural Development to obligate 191 direct loans and 6,211 guaranteed loans to finance affordable homes for rural Tennessee families.

Housing Plus

HomeSource east tennessee
HomeSource east tennessee’s mission is to strengthen our communities by providing sustainable housing opportunities. Investing over 25 years in Knox County and East Tennessee, HomeSource has helped many people obtain sustainable housing. One such way they’ve accomplished this is through their dedication to healthy and energy-efficient homes so that homeowners and renters aren’t burdened by large energy bills and unsafe conditions. They are at the forefront of aging in place and energy savings, helping clients and partners thrive.

Remarkable Achievement, Urban

KCDC, Five Points
Public housing can often be stigmatized because of its barracks-look and age. Thanks to innovative Public Housing Authorities like Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC), that view is changing. KCDC is working on a 4-phase revitalization of housing units in the Five Points Community of East Knoxville. Phase 1 opened recently with 90 units for the elderly and disabled with Phase 2’s completion just around the corner. Community revitalization projects like KCDC’s Five Points are shining examples of THDA’s commitment to affordable housing through programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. KCDC’s mission is to improve and transform neighborhoods and communities by providing high-quality affordable housing, advancing development initiatives and fostering self-sufficiency. This Five Points revitalization is a great effort in that direction.

Johnson City Housing Authority/Keystone Development – Baker Street
Keystone Development’s Baker Street development is a great accomplishment for the community. It’s a project that combines units for former foster care children aging out and veterans, a great combo for one complex. The entire complex is 24 units of supportive housing. Keystone Development, a group associated with the Johnson City Housing Authority, is another example of JCHA working hard to meet its community needs.

MDHA, Envision Cayce
Envision Cayce, Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency’s master plan for replacing 716 public housing units, began in March of 2013. The master plan involved numerous town hall meetings, applying national best practices and models for mixed-finance redevelopment projects, managing the resident community, an outreach process and identifying financial resources and strategies. On June 14, 2017, the doors opened on the first phase – Barrett Manor, named after Nashville attorney Lionel Barrett, known for his attention to the downtrodden. This building of 70 one-bedroom units is the first addition of public housing in Davidson County in 18 years and the first new residential building of Envision Cayce. The complex has 57 cameras and each resident will have their own key to get in and out.

Housing Leadership

Martin Edwards, Jr.
After a tumultuous year involving defaulted bonds with a housing provider spotlighted nationally for failing to provide adequate and safe housing, the City of Memphis’ Health, Education and Housing Facility Board hired former board member Martin Edwards to address many concerns. Under Edwards’ leadership, the board reestablished working relationships with its funding partners and took control of its balance sheet. Edwards is the board’s executive director, and owner of Edwards Investments, REALTORS®. He is active with the Healthy Homes Partnership, working to reduce ER visits by children living with asthma in rental housing in Memphis. He is the only Tennessean to serve as President of the National Association of REALTORS®. He has been involved in the Memphis real estate market in numerous investment brokerage, management and developments that include apartments, land, office, industrial and commercial mortgage banking and downtown redevelopment for over 40 years.

Art Cate
Art Cate has spent the better part of the last 40 working to better the affordable housing market in Knoxville, TN. He started at Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC) in the HR Department, moving on to Director of Finance & Administration, Chief Operating Officer and ending with his last two years as Executive Director/CEO. He was instrumental in KCDC receiving a HOPE VI grant, which revitalized the entire Mechanicsville neighborhood with new replacement housing and total investment of over $86 million. He continually sought ways to upgrade KCDC’s housing stock using tools many other agencies passed over, such as the Capital Fund Financing Program. He helped start the transition from Public Housing to Multifamily Housing through the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program. His vision and guidance through the years has helped KCDC become the agency it is today.

Don Alexander
Don Alexander is a beacon in the housing arena and recently retired from his role as executive director for the Crossville Housing Authority. Don led this progressive public housing agency for over 25 years and under his direction, CHA became a multifaceted agency with programs ranging from Family Self-Sufficiency, Homeownership, to after-school and summer youth programs, and programs for the elderly.