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Fulton County’s development authority subsidizes workforce housing in Atlanta

Heritage Station. (Photo by David Pendered)

By David Pendered

Fulton County’s development authority received the green light Wednesday from the county commissioners to proceed with the financing of a housing rehabilitation project in Atlanta, despite recent criticisms.

About 370 affordable apartment units priced for workers and senior citizens will be rehabilitated through the program. The complex is located on the border of the Pittsburgh and Mechanicsville neighborhoods in Southwest Atlanta.

The development authority plans to issue up to $58 million to help finance the acquisition and renovation of Heritage Station, located at 765 McDaniel St., on the west side of the railroad tracks that run along the western border of Downtown Atlanta.

Fulton County taxpayers are not on the hook to repay the bonds, which are backed by the revenue from the rental units. Investors are informed of risks.

The planned financing comes on the heels of criticism of the authority for subsidizing developments in Atlanta and for its operating policies. Attention evidently has waned.

No outside parties attended the virtual Oct. 25 hearing where financing for the Atlanta project was discussed. As the certification of the meeting notes: “Because no parties were present at the Hearing, no matters were discussed.”

Efforts by the board that oversees the authority to respond to criticism include policy changes and the hiring of an interim executive director, Sarah-Elizabeth Langford. Langford was appointed in 2017 to the Board of Regents, which oversees the University System of Georgia.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a procedural step necessary for the debt to be issued as federally tax-exempt bonds.

Fulton County commissioners traditionally vote on proposed tax-exempt status for such bonds, though the board did, in 1996, authorize the county chairperson to approve the status without commission review. This measure was intended to expedite the issue of these tax-exempt bonds, according to the legislation.

Heritage Station has the appearance of the garden-style rental communities popular in the 1980s.

Buildings are grouped around islands of grass and trees crisscrossed by sidewalks. Paved surface parking is interspersed among the buildings. The brick structures and roofs appeared intact on a windshield tour Wednesday. Grounds were tended and the sole sign of apparent inattention to maintenance was the failure of the front security gate to close.

Terms call for two bond issues: up to $35 million to acquire and preserve about 220 units of affordable workforce housing at Heritage Station Family Apartments; up to $23 million to acquire and preserve about 150 units of affordable units at Heritage Station Senior Apartments. The pool, fitness center, laundry facility and other common areas are included in the deal, according to terms in the package approved by Fulton commissioners.

The purchaser is Heritage Station LLC, which was incorporated in Georgia as a not-for-profit entity on Oct. 12, according to records maintained by the Georgia secretary of state.

Heritage Station is in an area that has long been a pocket of poverty. Located south of Downtown Atlanta, the neighborhoods are the southwest corner of I-20 and the Downtown Connector.

Fortunes are changing in these neighborhoods, though. A spec house in Pittsburgh was under contract in July at a listing price of $718,000. On Wednesday, workers were renovating a house a few doors west on McDaniel Street from one with fire damage evident in the attic.

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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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