After annexation fails, JC Housing Authority continues search


JOHNSON CITY, TN - The search for low-income housing for young people aging out of the foster system continues. After a failed move by the Johnson City Housing Authority to get a Washington County property annexed into the city, a search for a new property is underway.

Last month, the Johnson City Commission voted against the annexation of a property on Huffine Road. Neighbors objected, worried it would bring drugs and crime into the neighborhood. Commissioner David Tomita said it would glean little economic return, indirectly costing the city instead.

But according to the housing authority director, there are 600 students in Johnson City Schools who are homeless or live in unstable homes. These are some of the people the housing is aimed for.

Hunter Lunceford is 18-years-old and has been living in one of the developments for about a year. She moved there to escape a conflicted family environment and homelessness.

"I went ahead and moved out because there was some stuff going on, and I just felt like I wanted to move out," Lunceford said, "so then I was staying with some friends."

Lunceford was contacted by Audrey Covington with the Youth Village, a program helping young people improve their lives and find affordable housing. Covington helped Lunceford find housing, a job, and get a driver's license, among other things. She said the program helps keep young adults on track and out of trouble.

"When you provide these kids with the resources, then teach those kids how to use the resources, that's going to be successful," Covington said.

McLain said every tenant is checked for a criminal background, police regularly patrol the areas, and security cameras are installed around the complexes.

"There's a bunch of kids that live around here," Lunceford said. "There's young kids we hear playing around outside, and do you really want someone who's been in a bunch of legal trouble around your children?"

Now McLain is working to find a new site in the city, not outside of it.

"So that all the properties that we have are in the school system," McLain said, "and we work closely with the city police department and that relationship is very important to us."

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