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Knoxville City Council approves $1.5 million for permanent supportive housing

The 50 units in the First Creek at Austin development would cater to seniors at risk of losing their homes.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville City Council approved allocating $1.5 million for 50 permanent supportive housing units at First Creek at Austin in East Knoxville. 

Knoxville's Community Development Corporation would build those 50 units and provide support for Knoxville's seniors. 

Unlike some permanent supportive housing developments in Knoxville, where people already experiencing homelessness would be provided with housing and support, this development is intended for the elderly, who are at risk of losing their homes. 

"You're aging in a place, and you're low income, so we think there's a significant risk of homelessness," said Ben Bentley, the CEO of KCDC. "It's looking at keeping individuals in housing living semi-independently for as long as possible." 

Bentley said the 50 permanent supportive housing units for seniors would be interspersed throughout the First Creek at Austin development, intended for multi-generational housing. These units would be constructed during the third phase of the development. 

The support provided by KCDC would include meal delivery, housekeeping services and telehealth, but the intention is to allow seniors to live independently. 

As a social worker for KCDC, Misty Goodwin said she struggles to find housing for seniors. 

Goodwin said because Baby Boomers are aging, there are more seniors and less housing in Knoxville. Since the pandemic, Goodwin said rent has increased in the city. 

"They have no choice but to really move out of those homes and move into other places that they can afford," Goodwin said. 

Goodwin said most of the seniors she works with, who live on a fixed income, earn between $1,000 and $1,200 per month. Assisted living in Knoxville costs around $4,000 a month and the cheapest one-bedroom apartments are around $900 a month. 

"Most seniors just need that extra support to maintain their independent living," Goodwin said. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has already contributed $7.5 million toward KCDC's permanent supportive housing development. 

KCDC said the third phase of the First Creek at Austin development should be completed by 2024. 

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