By Eugene E. Jones, Jr.
This month, Atlanta Housing (AH) celebrates 85 years of housing Atlantans, and it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the organization’s history and its impact on the city.
Atlanta Housing was founded in 1938 by real estate developer Charles F. Palmer and President of Atlanta University Center Dr. John Hope during a period of intense social change in Atlanta and the nation. The Great Depression hit the city hard, and many families were struggling to make ends meet in a rapidly changing economy. Housing was in short supply for the working poor, especially for African Americans, who faced rampant discrimination in both rental options and access to mortgage lending. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA) helped to make Palmer and Hope’s shared vision of irradicating slums in Atlanta and improving the living conditions of deprived residents a reality. Atlanta became home to the first housing projects in the nation in 1936 with the opening of Techwood Homes for white Americans followed shortly thereafter with University Homes for African American.
Two years later, the Atlanta Housing Authority was created to build upon the innovative foundation laid by Palmer and Hope. Initially, AH focused on providing temporary housing for families, including veterans returning from World War II. Over time, Atlanta Housing evolved to become a public housing authority, owning and operating thousands of units across the city. With the success of these communities–including Centennial Place, the first financially and racially integrated public housing development, built on the site of the former Techwood Homes–the nationally acclaimed “Atlanta Model” was born.
The impact of Atlanta Housing’s work over the decades to follow has been massive, providing affordable, safe, and clean housing to generations of families in Atlanta. Today we serve nearly 27, 000 households and have invested more than $4.7 million in down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. Our people-first approach to serving families in need has been a crucial factor in helping break the cycle of poverty in Atlanta. Thousands of individuals and families have been able to climb out of poverty because of our crucial assistance in providing affordable housing and social services. Stable housing has played a huge role in improving educational outcomes for children, increasing job security for parents, and building stronger communities overall.
Atlanta Housing understands the importance of addressing the root causes of poverty and has implemented various programs to help families access education and job training, as well as other resources to support their success. As we reflect on our 85 years of service, we stand tall knowing that we have positively impacted the lives of countless individuals and families – giving them hope, stability, and the opportunity for a better future.
As Atlanta Housing looks ahead to its next 85 years, many challenges await. Affordable housing remains a pressing issue in Atlanta and across the country, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more urgent. Yet we remain committed to our mission of opening doors to quality affordable housing for all. The legacy of our pioneering founders continues.
Eugene E. Jones, Jr. is President & CEO of Atlanta Housing..
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