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Knoxville's affordable housing faces challenges during COVID-19

"We're making sure everything we do fits into social distancing without social isolation."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County leaders are working to make sure people stay safe in their affordable housing during COVID-19, and practice social distancing without being isolated. 

Through Knoxville's Community Development Corporation, there are more than 4,000 affordable housing units. More than 1,000 of those house people who are elderly and disabled. 

"These systems weren't designed for a situation like this," said CEO of KCDC, Ben Bentley. "We're making sure everything we do fits into social distancing without social isolation."

Increased communication about guidelines and timelines is part of the safety plan. 

"The normal operating model of the system is being challenged, there's also a demand for additional resources, so it's a twofold attack on this," said Bentley. 

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He said partnerships with Knoxville Area Transportation, mobile meals and Second Harvest helped fill the need for safe access to transportation and food. 

There are also emergency plans if someone tests positive for COVID-19. 

"Notification, constant contact and making sure any resources get fixed or met," said Bentley. "It's a huge team effort. We're drawing on and leaning heavily on the medical community to inform us of what needs to happen."

For the elderly and low-income housing apartment complex, Broadway Towers, only caregivers are allowed into the newly remodelled building. Visits with family and friends have come to a halt. 

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"Like the rest of the country, we're shut down," said manager Linda Lambert.

Broadway Towers recently finished a giant remodel of the inside of the building, which was supposed to be followed by a grand reopening. Because of the current situation, the event was pushed back and people are unable to use some of the new features.  

"We don't want to do it but we have to do it for everyone's safety," said assistant manager Cynthia Berums. "It's been really hard for some of the residents to understand what's really going on."

Both affordable housing options still have applications open; they know there is still a serious need for affordable housing in the city.

"While the circumstances are unfortunate it's impressive to see people come together," said Bentley. 

To apply for KCDC housing click here.  

To apply for Broadway Towers Apartments, call 865-524-4092.

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