Martin Housing Authority was officially organized by the City of Martin in a special called meeting on May 22, 1962. In attendance was Mayor Jack Vincent along with members of the city board of aldermen: Willard Rooks, C. E. Weldon, L.E. Puckett, Fred Wade; and City Recorder Max Burchard and City Attorney Harold T. Brundige. Also in attendance were 12 residents who met with them to discuss the proposal.
A five member board of commissioners was appointed by the mayor and the four aldermen, each naming one member. Charter members of the board of commissioners were: Thomas E. “Tommy” Fuller (5 year term), Harry E. Brooks (4 year term), H. F. “Woodie” Whaley (3 year term), J. W. “Bill” Beard (2 year term), Alton Penick (1 year term). Mr. Fuller was appointed chairman of the commissioners. The members of the commission drew for the terms of office varying in length. As each member’s term was to expire, the mayor would appoint (and still does) a new member. Each new appointment was/is to be 5 years before being eligible for reappointment.
On May 26, 1962 Martin Housing Authority was officially incorporated by the State of Tennessee. It is considered to be a 501(c)1 local government entity and is not subject to government imposed sales taxes.
It took two years to get approval from federal sources to build the first 60 unit property in Martin. It was completed in June 1967. Over the 20 year period from its beginning a total of 299 apartments were built. As smaller communities within the county recognized a need for affordable housing, they asked that Martin Housing Authority take the lead and bring public housing resources to their communities.
|Property Name||Location||Units||Date Completed|
|East Heights and Lakeview Circles||Martin||60||1967|
|Port Ease Homes||Dresden||40||1972|
|West Union Heights||Gleason||29||1981|
|Puckett Plaza Annex||Martin||48||1982|
Each of the properties developed by MHA was funded by grants received through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the federal agency at the time that was charged with developing such housing. Early on in the history of public housing rents were set to meet operating expenses. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that agencies began to receive operating subsidies. It was during that time that rents to be paid by the residents were determined by following a federally-mandated formula based on their household income. The federal government agreed to make up the difference between what the tenants paid and what it was believed to cost to run the program. The formula has been modified a number of times, but essentially follows the same principle; the tenant pays 30% of their household income for rent and HUD pays the housing authority the difference….if funding is available.
In the mid 1990’s the housing stock across the nation began to grow older and major capital improvements were required in many communities. HUD established a capital fund grant program that allocated funds to local housing authorities to spend on upgrading major building systems and replacing big-ticket items like roofs and heating units. While funds have decreased significantly over the years, capital fund monies are still received annually.
In the late 1998 MHA began to look at expanding its influence on its residents and the overall community. Under the new leadership of Brian Harris, Executive Director, they sought outside funding sources to pay for supportive services to its own and other low income families. The intent was and still is to equip families with opportunities to regain self-sufficiency ad achieve upward mobility.
The first effort resulted in the establishment of an after school program that would be provided for low income families at no cost to them. A stand-alone 5-bedroom house owned by MHA was converted into a community building where students in K-8th grade could come in after school and receive tutoring services, homework assistance and recreation. Over the past 14 years the program has grown into two separate programs spanning two different buildings and including high school students.
The Learning Enrichment Center caters to K – 5th graders and has a capacity to serve 40 children. The after school day is much more structured and meets the TN Department of Education guidelines for an after school care facility. A healthy snack is served and specific program goals drive students to excel in reading and math skills. The program is supplemented by arts, culture, and recreational programs supplemented by hundreds of hours of volunteer hours provided by UT Martin students and local community members.
The Crossroads Teen Center serves up to 50 middle and high school students providing homework assistance, tutoring services, recreation opportunities, leadership training, along with arts, culture and community awareness programs. Again, UT Martin serves as a tremendous resource for providing mentors, volunteers and tutors for individual student development.
In addition to these programs MHA has provided a Neighborhood Network center where adults can study and obtain their GED and participate in other self-sufficiency programs. Homebuyer education is provided by certified MHA staff. Case management services, budgeting, and resource referral services are provided by two social workers employed by the agency. A case manager is on staff to specifically meet the needs of our elderly and disabled residents. Monthly educational forums and special activities are planned to engage these residents in interactive social gatherings and equip them with relevant information to improve the quality of life.
In 2007 MHA was asked to take over the management of three 20 unit apartment complexes that specifically serve adults with mental illness diagnoses. The properties are located in Martin, Union City and Dyersburg. In the course of two year’s time the properties went from a “troubled” designation status to a standard performer. Each property now enjoys a “high performer” status with HUD.
MHA has also been employed by other housing authorities in the Northwest TN area to provide consulting services. In 2010 MHA temporarily took over the management of the Ripley Housing Authority because of its severely troubled status. Within a very short period of time the entire agency was restructured, new policies and procedures were written and implemented and a new, qualified executive director was hired. In a matter of 15 months the agency went from being “troubled” to a “high performer”. Much of the success of that agency was attributed to MHA’s involvement.
In August of 2011 MHA purchased a 24 unit apartment complex in Martin that had sustained a long time reputation for troubled tenants, drug activity and other criminal activity. MHA was able to secure a grant and loan award that will infuse the property with around $730,000 of improvements and convert it to affordable housing for the community.
Since 1998 MHA has grown exponentially in the number of employees it maintains on its payroll. In 1998 there were 10 employed staff members. The agency contracted out all of its construction project work and accounting services. By bringing those services in-house and developing a wide array of social services programs the agency maintains an average of 32 peo0ple on its payroll. These changes and developments have positively impacted the local economy. There remains a desire on the part of the leadership to continue this effort to support local businesses and serve as an integral part of the community through service delivery and economic growth.
The mission statement of the agency is as follows:
The mission of the Martin Housing Authority is to become a regional leader and entrepreneurial force within the housing industry by providing quality housing while developing and implementing programs and services that promote independence, self-sufficiency, upward mobility and a better quality of life.
We intend to continue to aggressively move forward with strategic efforts that contribute to the well-being of the communities we serve while sustaining a very healthy business model to ensure sustainability. We remain excited about the future and our opportunity to be a key player within the housing industry.