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 2015 winners and nominees are:
Excellence in Partnership
United Housing, Inc.: United Housing, Inc. (UHI), recently partnered with the Community of St. Therese of Lisieux, a Memphis nonprofit that serves women who are looking to rebuild their lives after being on the streets. The partnership can assist up to five women in a two-year program including housing, and has greatly benefitted from the two organizations’ combined abilities to leverage funds and work across sectors. UHI has 20 years of experience in serving individuals through homeownership counseling and foreclosure prevention, but recently added a focus on strengthening nonprofit-to-nonprofit partnerships.
Ridgeview Apartments: For the first time in its 60+ year history, the Gallatin Housing Authority partnered with a provide developer, Concord Gallatin, LLC, to seek Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding for an affordable housing development. Securing $322,251 through the LIHTC program and another $2.4 million in the form of a two-year, 0% interest loan from a private bank, the two organizations launched a joint effort to transform the aging Reese Lackey Heights building into the new Ridgeview Apartments facility. The project is now 65% complete and serves as a prime model for the GHA and other housing agencies to form public-private partnerships for future developments.
Buffalo Valley, Inc.: Although Buffalo Valley, Inc., of Hohenwald began solely as an alcohol and drug treatment center in 1979, housing became a critical part of its continuum of care in the mid-1990s. Partnerships on the federal level include being named the lead agency in 19 rural Tennessee counties for HUD’s “Homeless No More” initiative and a collaboration with the VA to produce, design, and develop grant per diem housing for homeless veterans. On the local level, Buffalo Valley has expanded outside Middle Tennessee to partner with the City of Chattanooga on its affordable housing efforts. The organization also has an excellent reputation with contractors, vendors, and public partners for meeting and exceeding compliance and sustainable requirements.
Nichole Carter, Patten Towers Service Coordinator: Patten Towers was built in the heart of Chattanooga in 1908 as the first “skyscraper hotel” in the city. Now operated by PK Management, the facility helps residents age in place while providing them with education and value-added services. As the on-site social services coordinator, Carter has developed community partnerships with nonprofits, businesses, universities, government entities and churches to help generate a variety of programs for residents. She is praised for taking a person-centered approach and conducting focus groups to meet the residents’ programming wants and needs. Programs include food insecurity, health and wellness, safety, exercise, spirituality, socialization and education.
Blount County Habitat for Humanity: Serving a community where nearly 50% of high school seniors do not have career or education plans post-graduation, Blount County Habitat for Humanity partnered with Maryville High School—as well as the Maryville-Alcoa Homebuilders Association, the United Way of Blount County, and the University of Tennessee—to establish a youth workforce development initiative at a Habitat construction site. This spring, 279 college and high school students were each involved in 20+ hours of construction-based activities and skill development, and 24 high school students participated in a construction-based experiential classroom to learn real world construction skills and work ethic, as well as explore the wide range of occupations available within the construction industry.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville and Nashville School of Law: These two organizations partnered to host no-cost clinics for Habitat homeowners and families in Habitat’s HomeWORKS program, allowing them to meet with law students and attorneys to develop a will. For the students and professionals, the program provides valuable experience working with diverse, low-income populations and encourages them to apply their expertise in charitable ways.
Tim Dimick: A mortgage loan originator with U.S. Bank, Dimick was nominated for his generous work in helping homeownership become a reality for participants in THDA’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership program. Dimick is noted for his availability, reliability, and the quality of service he provides both his clients and THDA staff. Colleagues of Dimick praise his efficiency, professionalism, and ability to relatable to the families he serves. Dimick also gives helpful feedback to when clients receive loan denials, allowing them to build better credit profiles so they can try again.
Scott County Homeless Shelter: Through its work advocating for homeless individuals and families, the Scott County Homeless Shelter saw a need for a greater awareness for homelessness issues in Tennessee. With the help of State Sen. Ken Yager, SCHS Executive Director Ray Perry successfully led the effort for the Tennessee Legislature to pass a bill recognizing November as “Homelessness Awareness and Prevention Month.” Originally providing only emergency shelter, the Scott County Homeless Shelter quickly grown over the past five years to provide safe housing, food, clothing, hygiene, and job search services, as well as the Access 2 Resources (A2R)” transportation service to combat the lack of public transportation in the area it serves. The Scott County Homeless Shelter also offers a supportive housing program, which provides the financial assistance to prevent homelessness or rehouse homeless residents.
Debbie Hillin: During her 25 years of service at Buffalo Valley, Inc., Hillin has been instrumental in raising $110 million for affordable housing. Dedicated to assisting high-risk groups in her community, Hillin’s top priority is placing people in a safe environment. Known for being available 24/7, she routinely keeps extended hours in order to secure housing or funding for an individual who has the drive but not the means to help themselves. Hillin serves on the Governor’s Council for Armed Services, Veterans, and Their Families and in 2013 was awarded The Adjutant General’s Distinguished Patriot Medal for her dedication to military families in need. She also chaired TAADAS and continues to regularly work in conjunction with the Tennessee Legislature to emphasize the need for affordable housing and address barriers.
Community Development Council of Greater Memphis: Community Development Council of Greater Memphis (CD Council) is a membership organization of community development organizations and proponents that support neighborhood revitalization efforts. The CD Council works in four areas: capacity building programs for CDCs, community education and civic engagement, planning and neighborhood revitalization, and policy and advocacy. As the only cross-sector advocacy effort of its kind in Memphis, the CD Council publishes an annual set of policy priorities and works throughout the year toward steady progress. The CD Council has been an active participant the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition, as well as numerous other local networks and coalitions.
Remarkable Achievement (Rural)
Grace Crossing, LP: Olympia Construction, Inc., completed work on Grace Crossing in Paris in 2014. The units feature spacious designs and are equipped with ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. Additionally, there are several units which are fully equipped to serve those who have a physical or sensory impairment. The exterior design of each building focuses on low-maintenance, energy efficient, and beautiful surfaces. The property offers many amenities such as a playground, computer room, community building with kitchen, covered gazebo, pavilion with barbeque grill, private patios, laundry facility, and direct access to public transportation. Grace Crossing is in a prime location, just steps away from the conveniences offered in town.
William Basinger: For 13 years, Basinger has been a senior case manager for housing for Buffalo Valley, Inc., ensuring the development and management of affordable housing for those with special needs, the homeless, low-income individuals, and families living in the targeted 19 rural counties served by the organization. Basinger worked in construction prior to joining Buffalo Valley, and his experience and efforts have helped Buffalo Valley foster community collaboration and increased its ability to work efficiently with contractors and suppliers. Basinger also helps ensure compliance for more than 650 units of rural affordable housing provided by Buffalo Valley. These units include emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent housing with supportive services, low-income rental, subsidized housing, and homeownership.
The Villas of Savannah, LP: The Villas of Savannah, located in the town of Savannah, was developed to optimize green space and utilizes landscaping design that provides long-term beauty. The property features a spacious community building with a gathering area, dining area, sofas, an entertainment center, game room, and fitness area. The units are equipped with ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, private patios, and additional outdoor storage. The buildings features sandstone brick exteriors for low maintenance and durability. The Villas employ an on-site manager who arranges events from potluck dinners to holiday parties in an effort to create a warm, welcoming community for residents. The property is owned by The Villas of Savannah, LP, and managed by Olympia Management, Inc.
Marshall Gardens, LP: Marshall Gardens, LP, partnered with developer Olympia Construction, Inc., and nonprofit Paladin Nonprofit TN, LLC, to complete this 48-unit development in Milan. The community building features a computer center, kitchen and dining area, laundry facility, and manager’s office. Residents also have access to an outdoor playground and covered picnic area with tables and barbeque grill. The exteriors are a mixture of durable, energy-efficient materials, and the landscaping is designed to allow the property to blend with the surrounding environment. Marshall Gardens is a shining example of energy efficiency, accessibility, and beautiful affordable housing.
Remarkable Achievement (Urban)
Keystone Development, Inc.: Keystone Development, Inc., was established in 2013 by the Johnson City Housing Authority to address the plight of homeless youth and veterans. Alan Court is the newest apartment complex built by Keystone in Johnson City. With seven one-bedroom apartments completed in August 2015, Alan Court is specifically veterans in the HUD-VASH program. Many participants have been or are currently being treated through the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Johnson City. Alan Court includes many components that reflect the best standards in quality and sustainability for its tenants, including ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and features. All units will be managed by the Johnson City Housing Authority.
Best in Innovation
Urban Housing Solutions, Inc.: Urban Housing Solutions was nominated for its 12 Garden Street development in Nashville. The eight-unit complex was constructed for low-income residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who wish to live independently. Created in partnership with the Nashville Intellectual and Developmental Disability Housing Group, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Vanderbilt Divinity School, 12 Garden Street allows individuals with IDD to live next door to divinity students who have volunteered to provide assistance as needed. There are nearly 7,000 people with IDD on the state’s waiting list for a Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver—a number that grows larger every month. By rule, these individuals have no more than $2,000 in assets. The project is the most extensive and energy-efficient renovation Urban Housing Solutions has ever completed, and it also had a positive impact on the local neighborhood by removing a known location of drug and criminal activity.
Franklin Housing Authority: Located in one of the wealthiest and fastest growing counties in the country, the Franklin Housing Authority embarked on a plan in 2010 to change the face of public housing and at the same time provide more options by being creative in the development and use of properties. The master housing plan is designed to replace obsolete public housing with modern communities serving the city’s low and moderate income families. The first phase included FHA’s first-ever public-private venture, The Reddick Senior Residences. The $8.5 million, three-story building featuers 49 one- and two-bedroom apartments specially designed for an aging population. The facility includes a health and wellness center, a business center, a library, a game room, and laundry facilities. For many residents, some of whom lived in the old public housing on the site, it is the first time their home has had central heat and air, a dishwasher, and a place to interact with people their own age. An on-site manager is available to assist the residents. FHA describes the building as the first step in a long-awaited plan to improve the lives of low-income families in the Franklin community.
John Pointer, Dansen and Associates: As owner of Dansen and Associates, LLC, and a Sears Hometown Store franchise, Pointer was nominated for his work with the Tennessee Association of Housing Redevelopment Authorities (TAHRA), a supportive association that represents the majority of public housing authorities (PHAs) statewide. As a result of the EPA’s effort to replacing aging appliances with the new ENERGY STAR-rated ones, TAHRA contracted with Pointer to carry out the work on behalf of the 85 housing authorities. Pointer contacted vendors while reviewing the TAHRA proposal, itemizing all applicable appliances, and meeting with PHA staff members throughout the state. As a result of his efforts, energy use has been reduced 10%. The new specifications will also establish an optional functionality criteria that allows PHAs to be eligible for a “connected” allowance if ever needed. Since signing the contract with TAHRA, Dansen has made deliveries across the state and has placed orders with members of the Tennessee Association of Affordable Housing for similar work.
Vicki George Award for Excellence in Homebuyer Education
Beverly James: As director of financial education and counseling at Christian Community Services, Inc, for the past five years, James has tirelessly researched and studied home loan products and financial coaching techniques so that CCSI families are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need for long-term self-sufficiency and asset purchase. Praised for her individual attention to each client, James has successfully reduced time and transportation barriers for local families seeking homeownership. She is a regular spokesperson for both CCSI and Habitat for Humanity. Through the Mentoring Towards Independence program, James assisted a mother of two out of public housing and into the home she “wanted so much” for her children.
Lisa Booker: A dedicated and experienced educator with Family and Children’s Services in Nashville, Booker was nominated for the “top-notch education experience” she provides students who participate in her homebuyer education classes. Her presentation skills have been described as flawless, and the number of homebuyers she teaches each year is the highest in the state. One mortgage broker said clients she referred to Booker always provided positive feedback of their experience, with many saying it was the best class they had ever taken.
Taylor Hayes: Just over a year ago, Hayes began working with the non-profit HomeSource East Tennessee (former Knox Housing Partnership) as a homebuyer education counselor. In that short time, average number of students served each month has jumped from 12 to 32, a boost of 266%. Hayes also championed HomeSource’s pilot program for online classes through eHomeAmerica, a move that resulted in another increase in course enrollment. His success is credited to consistent partnership building and successful program marketing.