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Atlanta’s latest incubator fosters new approaches to preserving affordable housing

affordable housing, West End

Atlanta has established a $40 million fund to help low income homeowners pay to upgrade their homes. Now, it's common for folks to leave such homes and for developers to buy, renovate and flip them at prices higher than the former residents can afford. File/Credit: David Pendered

By David Pendered

Atlanta has a long tradition of being open to testing new ideas in urban planning. The latest project – preserving affordable housing – continues the city’s record.

affordable housing, West End

The ATL Challenge intends to foster and identify a market-based approach to preserving affordable housing as renovations are driving prices beyond the reach of many workers. File/Credit: David Pendered

Three finalists were selected from a total of 15 proposals presented to a contest titled, Atlanta’s Affordable Housing Preservation Challenge, or the ATL Challenge.

As interesting as the three projects that made it to the finals are, of equal note is the breadth of approaches that thought leaders presented to address one of the city’s major challenges – an adequate supply of housing affordable to those who earn the salaries of shop clerks and teachers.

The ideas include:

  • A documentary film about the loss of affordable housing at a hotel that is to be redeveloped;
  • Building tiny houses and creating a method to provide access to mortgages for low-income buyers;
  • A software program to enable would-be renters to connect with landlords of affordable homes, complete with a database that would be easy to search.

These three ideas weren’t among the three finalists.

Here are the three that were chosen to move into the final round. Each team will receive $10,000 to further develop their idea over the next several months. A winner, who’s to be announced in May, is to receive $70,000 to put their finishing touches on their concept:

Rental rates for most apartments being built in Midtown and Buckhead exceed $2.60 a foot, according to a new report from CBRE, the real estate firm. These prices are beyond the reach of many who work in these two job-rich neighborhoods. Credit: mymidtownmojo.com

Rental rates for most apartments being built in Midtown and Buckhead exceed $2.60 a foot, according to a new report from CBRE, the real estate firm. These prices are beyond the reach of many who work in these two job-rich neighborhoods. Credit: mymidtownmojo.com

Stryant Investments, LLC Subdivision of Existing Housing Stock to Increase Affordability:

  • Stryant aims to increase housing density and affordability with market-rate solutions within existing single-family and multifamily areas. It proposes creation of a model whereby houses can be divided into multiple units while remaining safe, quality options for residents.”

Tapestry Development Group, Inc. Atlanta Affordable Housing Preservation Program:

  • Tapestry’sproposal focuses on providing capital to medium-size affordable housing multifamily property owners with homes serving residents at 80 percent area median income (AMI) or below. Property owners will have access to low-interest funds for moderate rehabilitation in exchange for locking in current affordability levels.”

TriStar, LLC Community Impact Model Transforming Communities through Housing:

  • Tristar will present its Affordable Housing/Education model and case study to demonstrate the interconnectivity of affordable housing, education and healthcare. It proposes a unique financing structure that funds affordable long-term housing preservation which can be replicated throughout the U.S.”

Click here to read about all 15 entrants.

affordable apartments

Apartments priced below $950 a month are rare in Atlanta. Oak Knoll Apartments, in the Morningside neighborhood, are priced as low as $895 a month. Residents complain on apartment.com of roach infestation, no A/C, and no maintenance. File/Credit: apartment.com

The ATL Challenge is led by Enterprise Community Partners; the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; and Georgia ACT. It is sponsored by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation.

The goal of ATL Challenge is to devise market-based methods to preserve affordable housing in Atlanta. Hopefully, the methods can be scaled across other cities in Georgia and the nation. Atlanta isn’t the only city where rising rents and home prices are reaching far beyond the means of many gainfully employed folk.

“The need to preserve affordable housing in Georgia continues to grow, with nearly 160,000 renter households in the Atlanta metropolitan area already spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing,” Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic, vice president and Southeast market leader for Enterprise, said in a statement from ATL Challenge. “The ATL Challenge finalists have all presented innovative preservation projects to help find solutions, and we look forward to supporting the winning proposal.”

Nationwide, nearly 19 million families are homeless or paying more than half of their monthly income on housing. In Georgia, nearly 360,000 families are housing insecure, according to the statement.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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