Atlanta Housing votes for East Lake refinance, renovations

By Maggie Lee

Applause and some shouts of joy answered a unanimous vote of the board of Atlanta’s housing authority on Wednesday afternoon — it came from Villages of East Lake residents and supporters who’ve been lobbying for a deal to finance neighborhood renovations.

Villages at East Lake residents and supporters, plus staff and leaders from Atlanta Housing and Columbia Residential pose for a picture to mark a Wednesday board vote that should mark better relations among all sides. Credit: Maggie Lee

Villages at East Lake residents and supporters, plus staff and leaders from Atlanta Housing and Columbia Residential pose for a picture to mark a Wednesday board vote that should mark better relations among all sides. Credit: Maggie Lee

For months, East Lake residents have spoken out at Atlanta Housing meetings, complaining of leaky windows, broken water heaters, rotting porch railings and the like.

A start on works should end that outcry.

And the deal should also ease some apparent tension between Atlanta Housing and the Cousins Foundation over the development.

The foundation spearheaded the transformation of a community that used to be a problem-plagued, old-fashioned housing project into a mixed-income development. The foundation has long been urging Atlanta Housing to authorize the refinancing so that the Village can save on interest and do renovations.

The board got several rounds of thanks, including from Daniel Shoy, president and CEO of the East Lake Foundation, the nonprofit that’s been quarterbacking the community’s revitalization through numerous programs and services.

“We are looking forward to working with you in a renewed sense of partnership to bringing the refinance to a close in early 2019,” Shoy told the board.

“Everybody worked in the spirit of focusing on the residents,” said Atlanta Housing board Chairman Christoper Edwards, just before the vote.

Earlier this year, Edwards had expressed concern about operating deficits that the Villages have experienced over its 20-year history and said in a letter that he and the agency wanted to ensure the development has an updated and viable financial structure.

On Wednesday, Edwards praised the developer, Columbia Residential. The company could have made more money, he said, but it came down.

“It looks like everyone is pulling in the right direction,” Edwards said.

The new financing structure, which includes state and federal loan among other sources, should save some $450,000 in debt service per year.  Upgrades and renovations should also drive down the community’s operating costs.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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