With the ongoing gentrification of Atlanta and its surrounding communities, the conversation about maintaining affordable housing continues to heat up.
Much of that conversation has been centered around neighborhoods connected to the Atlanta BeltLine, where home and rent prices continue to soar out of reach for middle class residents. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Old Fourth Ward, where townhomes are now selling for $1 million and up and rent for a one-bedroom apartment are at $1,400 and up.
The City of Atlanta recently unveiled its Housing Affordability Action Plan, which has an ambitious plan to create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes by 2026.
The City of Decatur began taking action in 2012, and just last month the Decatur Housing Authority (DHA) held a ribbon cutting for the rehabilitation of an aging apartment complex in the Oakhurst neighborhood rechristened Oakview Walk.
Oakview Walk now consists of 34 family apartments in an attractive three-story building. It includes 27 one-bedroom units and seven two-bedroom apartments, all built to the Enterprise Community Green standard. The community also includes a multipurpose community room, a covered exterior gathering area, onsite laundry, a “tot lot” equipped play area, fenced community garden, gathering area with kitchen, computer lab, wellness center and an onsite management office.
Twenty-seven of the new apartments are tax credit units designed for families earning 30 to 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). The remaining seven apartments are designated as workforce housing for families earning 80 to 120 percent of AMI with rents below market rate.
This rehabilitation comes on the heels of upgrades to the former Gateway Manor complex at West Trinity Place in downtown, which is now known as Trinity Walk. DHA began planning for Trinity Walk back in 2012 while the nation was still in recovery from the economic crash. The 121 renovated, affordable apartments opened in late 2017. Similarly, the Allen Wilson community on Commerce Drive in downtown has been revitalized into 191 affordable apartments, including those for seniors.
Since 2014, DHA has invested $55.7 million and received millions in tax credits to transform the properties.
“I believe that affordable, achievable and accessible housing is the foundation that supports a stable and positive life,” said DHA Executive Director Douglas Faust. “With stability, families can pursue healthy habits, greater educational opportunities and quality employment. We are proud of these new homes, as they are the capstone of five years of hard work in planning, financing, resident relocation, construction, development and property management.”
Mayor Patti Garrett, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting, said the Decatur City Commission recently established an Affordable Housing Task Force after holding its first “housing summit” to identify more properties and methods for creating affordable homes.
“I remember when Oakview Walk was just an idea, and Doug Faust came to the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association with information and sketches of what was to come,” Garret said. “And, wow, what an asset Oakview Walk is to the neighborhood!”
Faust said Decatur was unique for having affordable housing communities in the heart of the city rather than outside it. He said that easily connects residents with schools, shopping, restaurants and services.
“We look for ways to enhance the lifestyles of our residents through community gardening programs, play areas for the children, academic resources for students and mentoring programs,” Faust said. “A number of local organizations and businesses partner with us to provide educational opportunities for our younger residents as well as employment, health and wellness programs for the adults.”
Partnerships already formed include one with the Wylde Center in Oakhurst and the University of Georgia Extension Service to offer onsite gardening, cooking and nutrition programs. Bryant Pharmacy is working with local businesses to provide free, regular health screenings to residents.
Additionally, the Decatur Education Foundation, local citizens and Decatur businesses have collaborated to create The Opportunity Partnership, a mentoring program for low income students, while DHA’s own STARS Afterschool Program includes tutoring, homework assistance, reading, computer skills and enrichment classes. Since 1992, DHA has funded scholarships to support 377 graduating high school seniors as they begin their collegiate careers, and 42 adult learners continuing their educations.