A holistic approach to provide affordable houses in distressed South DeKalb
By David Pendered
A new, $20 million initiative that’s to provide 100 affordable homes – and improve the quality of life – in South DeKalb County could become a model for supporting distressed suburban neighborhoods, which have emerged as the epicenter of poverty since the Great Recession.
Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc. unveiled its Home South DeKalb program on July 18. ANDP will provide homebuyers with access to down payment assistance, and provide developers of affordable housing with increased lending from its loan fund.
In addition, ANDP intends to collaborate with DeKalb County and other partners to provide a level of wraparound services. As ANDP describes this aspect of the program, it is:
- “A commitment to collaborate with housing, community, and governmental entities and a broader network of health, educational and other partners to improve health, equity and economic outcomes in South DeKalb.”
“We are excited to launch this holistic housing initiative in South DeKalb,” ANDP President and CEO John O’Callaghan said in a statement.
The money will come from ANDP’s existing and new resources. The program is to end in December 2021.
The provision of these resources in suburban neighborhoods is becoming more important than in years past.
The nation’s suburbs no longer are home mostly to those with comfortable incomes, homes and lifestyles. Suburbs now are home to a rising population of folks in poverty, who live in places that don’t have the extensive transit systems and social services typically available in big cities.
In metro Atlanta, the number of high-poverty neighborhoods in the suburbs tripled from 2000 to 2015. By comparison, the number of high-poverty neighborhoods in the densely developed urban core doubled during the same period, according to the 2017 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, an affiliate of Harvard University.
Nowhere are the manifestations of this trend more evident than in South DeKalb County.
More than 18,000 homeowners in South DeKalb lost their homes during the foreclosure crisis, according to ANDP. Given that a house likely was the owner’s biggest investment, the foreclosure wiped away a great proportion of the owner’s wealth.
A decade after the Great Recession, about a third of the remaining homeowners in South DeKalb still owe more on their mortgage than price for which the house could be sold, ANDP found.
Some owners simply can’t get out from under the debt. A random search of foreclosed houses in South DeKalb County turned up one that’s been on the market for more than 5,900 days. Zillow.com estimates the foreclosure price to be $317,734 – a full $79,000 lower than Zillow’s estimated value of the five bedroom, four bath house.
O’Callaghan said Home South DeKalb extends the 27-year relation ANDP has with DeKalb County. Since the Great Recession, ANDP has partnered with the county to provide more than 200 affordable houses in DeKalb. ANDP has benefitted from the relationship, O’Callaghan said.
“Our partnership with DeKalb County’s Community Development Department has improved our development capacity,” he said in a statement. “We’ve grown from a pilot project of six homes starting in 2008 to become metro Atlanta’s largest producer of quality rehabbed homes for sale to low- and moderate-income families.”
From the county’s perspective, Home South DeKalb fits neatly into the county’s ongoing effort to ensure a supply of affordable homes.
“The Home South DeKalb initiative complements the county’s renewed commitment to eradicating blight, improving affordable housing opportunities and enhancing quality life for all DeKalb County residents,” DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said in a statement.
Note to readers: David Pendered is a member of ANDP’s Advisory Council.