Following Nashville's Lead, Murfreesboro Plans To Overhaul Public Housing | Nashville Public Radio

Following Nashville's Lead, Murfreesboro Plans To Overhaul Public Housing

Mar 15, 2019

Oakland Court in Murfreesboro is a small, sleepy complex. Driving through the 20-acre neighborhood filled with tidy lawns and compact brick homes, you may not even realize it's public housing.

But the city has plans to tear down and rebuild this development.

It's using the same approach as Nashville did, borrowing against the value of the land so it can do a wholesale overhaul of this 1960's-era public housing complex.

Lillie Mays is 63 years old and she's lived in Oakland Court for 19 years, where she keeps a tiny garden filled with tulips and a collection of wind chimes. 

"I really like where I'm at," Mays says, sitting on her porch, listening to the wind rustle the chimes. "I'm on the corner. Ain't nobody bother me. I just really enjoy living where I live at."

Mays has been waiting to hear more about the plan to demolish and rebuild her neighborhood. While she says she likes the idea of new homes and new amenities, she doesn't like the idea of moving.

"I'm not excited. I like where I'm at," she said.

Her next door neighbor, Beulah McCoy loves her apartment as well. She's decorated the small space with lace doilies and dozens of framed pictures of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. McCoy turns 90 in May and while she welcomes the change, in theory, she doesn't expect to see the new apartments.

"I'll probably be gone by then," she said with a laugh.

According to the Murfreesboro Housing Authority, the first phase of construction will begin in 2020 and take about 18 months to complete. Before that, though, residents in 25 of the apartments will have to move out temporarily. Mays and McCoy hope to be spared.  

Thomas Rowe, the executive director of the housing authority, says securing the money needed to complete the project is the biggest challenge. When asked, he can't even ballpark a price tag for the overhaul.

After that, he says, the hardest part is finding new apartments for people. Because the city's public housing is limited, some residents will need to be moved into private-market housing.

"Relocation is a big challenge as we move forward," he says. "There is not a lot of affordable housing here to work with."

When all is completed, in 2023, Oakland Court will have doubled in size, to 150 units from the current tally of 76. Most, or all, Rowe says, will remain low-income.