Decatur opens public housing that may be model for the future
By David Pendered
The next generation of public housing may have opened recently in Decatur. Trinity Walk provides affordable homes in green buildings on a sustainable campus, with on-site resources to address the nutritional and human service needs of residents.
The buildings are energy efficient and will receive EarthCraft certification. Bioswales and a cistern system capture and contain stormwater runoff. On-site gardening, nutrition and cooking program are available. Free, regular health screenings are offered by a local pharmacy.
This garden-style community is a vast change from two public housing complexes that have been replaced. The razed Gateway Manor and Oakview apartments, located along West Trinity Place in the heart of Decatur, were built about 50 years ago and showed their age.
“Trinity Walk is more than bricks and mortar, it’s a transformational community,” Doug Faust, executive director of the Decatur Housing Authority, said in a statement released after the Oct. 5 formal opening of the development.
Faust has been working on the project for at least three years. An analysis Faust commissioned from a CPA firm reported in May 2014 the new apartment project would be economically viable.
“Thanks to a far-reaching and innovative community partnership, DHA has been able to transform a deteriorated and obsolete housing project into a model apartment community that meets far more than just the need for affordable housing,” Faust said.
Trinity Walk offers 121 apartments, ranging from one to three bedrooms. Thirty-two units are reserved for residents aged 55 and older.
The services provided at Trinity Walk fit into the vision of public housing that’s espoused by a national non-profit organization comprised of housing authorities. The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities has produced a framework for future housing policy that calls for innovations including:
- “Fully integrate green building standards;
- “Public housing will [incorporate] the social and physical needs of seniors into its modernization plans;
- “[P]ublic housing will, by attracting new resources through partnerships where possible, strive for a healthier, more equitable and more sustainable future.”
CLPHA’s 70 members manage 40 percent of the nation’s public housing programs, plus additional programs, according to its website. DHA is not listed as a CLPHA member. DeKalb County’s and Atlanta’s housing authorities are listed as members.
The program enhancements adopted by DHA are a step beyond those implemented by the Atlanta Housing Authority. AHA pursued an aggressive policy of razing and replacing obsolete public housing structures with mixed income communities.
The Decatur Housing Authority built its program with an array of partners including Southface Energy Institute/EarthCraft; Wylde Center; Bank of America, and an array of professional services firms. Government partners included Decatur’s school board and city government; MARTA; Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Here’s a snapshot of program offerings:
- HUD took steps to ensure residents of the existing apartments didn’t have a gap in housing assistance payments, and worked with the city to reduce the impact of temporary relocation;
- Partnered with Decatur’s Wylde Center and the University of Georgia Extension Service to offer on-site gardening at a community garden, cooking and nutrition programs;
- Bryant Pharmacy volunteered to provide free, regular health screenings to residents;
- Created a mentoring program for low-income students with help from Decatur Education Foundation, local residents and Decatur businesses;
- Offered DHA’s STARS Afterschool Program onsite for younger students, providing tutoring, help with homework and reading, computer skills and assorted enrichment classes.