By Geoff Ramsey, CRS, GRI
President, Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®
As the leading advocate for private property rights and housing issues in the Chattanooga region, Greater Chattanooga REALTORS® is committed to protecting current and future home and business owners. Part of that responsibility is protecting the dream of homeownership and paying close attention to one of today’s hottest topics: housing affordability.
Chattanooga’s continued growth can positively impact our city and its residents. But only if growth is handled responsibly and with integrity. For Chattanooga to continue thriving, it’s vital that there is cooperation and proper communication between local stakeholders and the City of Chattanooga.
The 2019 proposed budget for the City of Chattanooga includes stormwater/land development fees that could be devastating for housing affordability in our community. If approved as is, Chattanooga will have the highest water quality fees in Tennessee. Not only are the proposed fee increases extreme, stakeholders were not made aware of or included in conversations regarding potential increases.
I understand fees have not increased in some time so it may be necessary to support Chattanooga’s growth. However, proper communication needs to happen first so that the City and stakeholders can do our due diligence to make sure fee increases is the best decision for our city as well as it’s current and future residents.
Should these drastic increases pass, it is very likely that developers will seek opportunities outside Chattanooga and once again the City of Chattanooga will be left searching for new revenue streams.
There is no doubt that the proposed stormwater/land development fees will impact the citizens of Chattanooga. Although the City continues to say that the development community will be assessed the increased development fees. Fair enough. But let’s call a spade a spade. Ultimately, those fees will fall to those purchasing homes, goods, and services.
Let’s say a business owner with a property including storage units with 36 Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs) currently pays $4,147.20 in water quality fees. Under the City of Chattanooga’s proposed increase, that business owner will see that fee skyrocket to $6,607.44 in 2023.
To recoup the added costs, the owner will need to increase the cost of renting the units.
On Tuesday, June 19, at the City Council’s meeting, I shared the following request on behalf of Greater Chattanooga Realtors: “Vote against a budget with this fee increase included or remove the fee increase from the budget to allow the issue to be addressed separate from the City’s 2019 budget.”
We welcome the opportunity to work with the City of Chattanooga and other stakeholders regarding issues that impact development and homeownership. Issues such as an increase in stormwater and land development fees should be a conversation we have today, not four or five years from now when it will likely be too late to recover from the damage these increase fees may cause. As home prices continue to rise in the City of Chattanooga, the dream of homeownership will continue to dim for many.
The National Association of REALTORS’® tagline is The Voice for Real Estate®. As The Voice for Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga, I and my fellow Realtors promise you – our families, friends, neighbors – to continue to fight to protect the American dream of homeownership and housing affordability in our region.
So, City of Chattanooga, can we please take the proper time to discuss the potential need for stormwater/land development fee increases?
I respectfully request stakeholders be allowed time to do our due diligence in assessing this potential need of a fee increase. We owe it to our fellow citizens – we owe it to Chattanooga. Oh, and happy National Homeownership Month.