THDA Funding Helps Cookeville Transform Housing

Dow Harris, the executive director of Putnam County’s Highlands Residential Services, looked at the state of public housing in the city and saw a dire need for updating, with many of the buildings under his agency’s management dating back four or five decades.

“Our board strategically chose to not remodel and keep throwing money into these older, row public housing units,” Harris said. “We’re going to rebuild and redevelop. We have a strategic plan in place to redevelop our entire portfolio to change the perception and image of our public housing for the next 50 or 60 years.”

The overhaul of Highland Residential Service’s properties began with the construction of Oak Tree Towers, which was completed in 2021 with the help of grant funding from THDA. HRS is also working to build the Hickory Valley development close by using Low Income Housing Credits.

“This is a big deal for Cookeville” Harris said. “Without the tax credits or grant funding from THDA, we wouldn’t be able to undertake a project like this. We have $20 to $25 million that THDA has helped facilitate to make this work possible. Between the grants and the equity from the tax credits, it all goes together to make this work.

“Without THDA’s partnership and funding this wouldn’t be happening. We’d have a plan, but we wouldn’t have the ability to fund it.”

Oak Tree Towers, which was developed in partnership with LHP, features 50 new units to house low-income senior over the age of 62. The building features amenities developed to assist the older population living there, as well as access to supportive services and activities.

Harris said Hickory Valley, which is being built with four percent tax credits from THDA, will be located on a neighboring property and feature 48 units for low-income families once it’s complete.

Unlike Oak Tree Towers, which is a large apartment building, Hickory Valley will feature what HRS calls a “big house” design with free-standing homes that feature up to four rental units for each building. Some of the buildings will also feature community space for residents.

Harris said HRS also plans to pursue tax credits for its Redbud Village and Magnolia Ridge properties. When combined with Oak Tree Towers and Magnolia Ridge, Cookeville will have up to 240 newly built affordable housing units.