By Urban Land Institute Atlanta estimates, the Metro Atlanta region needs 5,000 new units of affordable housing annually just to accommodate the area’s growth and 10,000 homes annually to start mitigating the affordability problem. To really solve the problem, it’s estimated that the area would need about 250 million units per year over a 10-year period, which is equivalent to a $2.3 billion investment to preserve and produce affordable units at this scale.
While not quite on that level, in January 2019 Invest Atlanta and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms approved millions of dollars of funding for three new affordable housing projects along one of Atlanta’s most important emerging commercial corridors and in the Westside neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue.
The first project, CityPlace, received a loan of $1 million from the Vine City Housing Trust Fund, which will allow developer Place Properties to build five new single-family residences with price tags ranging from $135,000 to $160,000. The second project, Urban Oasis, secured financing of $250,000, also from the Vine City Housing Trust Fund. Sims Real Estate Group plans to renovate three old homes and build a fourth in this community. The renovated homes will be available to families who earn 80 percent area median income (AMI) or below, while the new home will be offered for sale to families earning 100 to 120 percent AMI.
The third project is a 130-unit multifamily development, Hartland Station, that was approved for up to $1.3 million in pay-as-you-go grant funding from the Metropolitan Parkway tax allocation district. This development will offer 40 units for families earning 50 percent AMI and below and 70 units to those earning 60 percent AMI or below.
These three new developments underscore the efforts of the mayor and the city’s economic development arm to bring more affordability to Metro Atlanta. It’s an issue that city leaders don’t take lightly. When our team at Focus: Atlanta sat down with Mayor Bottoms last year, she pointed to several important initiatives designed to broaden the conversation about affordable housing.
“We named the city’s first-ever chief housing officer, Terri Lee, whose singular focus is developing a citywide affordability strategy, including coordinating policy initiatives with our agencies and partners and helping us reach our $1 billion affordable housing investment goal,” Mayor Bottoms told Focus:. “We also brought together our planning department, the head of the Atlanta Housing Authority, the head of Invest Atlanta and the head of the BeltLine, and what we learned is that a conversation with those leaders around the table had never happened in our city. I think this really speaks to how much work needs to be done.”
There’s no question that the affordability issue will take more than just conversations to effect real change. “Affordable housing is a passion of mine, and it’s probably a bigger problem today than it was a year ago,” Matthew Shulman, CEO and managing partner at Ardent Companies, told Focus:. “Projects like the Gulch are planning on 20 percent affordable housing, and it would be great to see a lot of development going that way. I’m hoping there can be more engagement between the public and private sectors to solve the issue of affordable housing.”
In the spirit of public-private collaboration, in January 2018 the public-private taskforce HouseATL was launched to promote a collaborative, cross-sector process for expanding the supply of affordable housing in the region. In August of last year, HouseATL set a goal of investing $500 million in public resources and another $500 million in private resources to build or preserve 24,000 affordable homes in Atlanta over the next eight to 10 years.
Some metro area residential builders are also stepping up to the plate to provide housing options at affordable price points to Atlanta residents. “We’re really excited to reintroduce the Centex brand in Metro Atlanta,” Will Cutler, Georgia Division president at PulteGroup, told Focus:. “It has not been a part of this market for about six years or so. Our newest community in South Fulton County, Princeton Village, is opening up as we speak. Centex is focused on the first-time buyer who is very conscious about price point. Many first-time buyers walk through the front door and truly don’t understand what it means to be able to buy a house. Can they afford it? That’s where the strength of the Centex brand comes into play. A lot of teachers and police officers have a hard time finding affordable homes in the Atlanta market right now, so we think it’s important to make sure that we focus on delivering a quality home that is consumer inspired to that buyer. We’re excited to bring that into this market again.”
The BeltLine could also be welcoming new below-market-rate housing as early as the summer of 2019. The Madison Reynoldstown development includes plans to set aside 116 apartments for affordable housing. This project would be the first in a private partnership between Atlanta Housing and the BeltLine.
Atlanta has a long way to go to ensure affordability and quality of life for its residents, but leaders in both the public and private sectors are taking important steps toward providing viable housing options to all. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping a close eye on these developments throughout 2019.
For more information on our interviewees, please visit their websites:
City of Atlanta: https://www.atlantaga.gov/
The Ardent Companies: https://theardentcompanies.com/