Lee apartment tenants struggling to find new homes with demolition deadline looming


KINGSPORT, Tenn. - The upcoming demolition of the Robert E. Lee public housing apartments in Kingsport is forcing tenants to find new homes before December 29th.

Some are worried they will not have enough time to find another place. While they were given 90 days notice to search for another residence, a delay on vouchers has left many with only three weeks to find a new home.

Misti O'Dell lives at Lee apartments with her three daughters. Wednesday, she began packing her things, hoping to find a new home.

"I am in a panic," O'Dell said. "I am desperately searching for a place for my children to call home, a place for us to relocate in, and we have four days after Christmas to do so."

O'Dell said she might have to postpone Christmas for her children.

"It's sad to think I can't even put a Christmas tree up," O'Dell. "I have a two foot Christmas tree."

She said she's worried about what will happen if she doesn't find a place to live.

"Makes me sick every day I think of it," O'Dell said. "I lay there and think about it all night going 'Oh my god. What are we going to do? Lord help us.'"

O'Dell is not alone. Several other tenants are worried they may not find alternative housing in time. Officials at the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority said they will not put anyone out on the street.

"We're working with residents, and we understand there's not a lot of time," O'Dell said. "We have staff committed to working with families on an individual basis."

Officials say they may be able to help some families move into other public housing complexes if they cannot find other arrangements. At the time of this publication, KHRA has 36 vacancies in public housing that could be used, but that is not enough to completely cover the 91 families in the Lee apartments. They added that demolition was not delayed because funding was in jeopardy.

"If we have to go into a different funding round on the tax credits, it would delay us," KHRA director Terry Cunningham said. "There would be about $18 million dollars involved in that."

The deadline leaves O'Dell and her family with little time and few options.

"I don't want to have to search outside of Kingsport, but I mean I guess I'm going to have to so there's somewhere for my family to go," O'Dell said.

Demolition is scheduled for January.