Fulton’s development authority green-lights public assistance for downtown student housing
By Sean Keenan
Fulton County’s development board on Tuesday OK’d a property tax break worth $4.4 million to a developer pitching an $87 million downtown tower that would afford some Georgia State University (GSU) and Atlanta University Center (AUC) students below-market-rate rents.
The development would ascend 25 stories at 111 John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, across the street from the new student housing rental complex The Mix, a luxury dwelling towering over a RaceTrac gas station and convenience store and neighboring other residences near GSU’s downtown campus.
The proposed development would comprise 742 beds spread across 247 units and 187 parking spaces.
Fifteen percent of the residences — 111 beds — at the fully-furnished apartment stack would be earmarked as “affordable housing,” priced for households earning 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) or less. If a student is considered a single-person household, that would mean the space would be priced so that someone could comfortably afford it on an income of about $46,350.
Ensnared in controversy over its tendency to support private projects that critics argue don’t need public backing, the Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC) did just that yet again.
All but one of the voting DAFC board members gave the bond resolution the thumbs-up on Tuesday. The tax break will come in the form of what’s called a lease-purchase bond: a discounted property tax bill for 10 years.
Allison Dyer, an attorney with Holland & Knight, the firm representing the project’s developer, said during a prior DAFC meeting that GSU officials have said they need more student housing in order to boost enrollment.
“Georgia State has told us that, with additional beds, they could grow to 2,000 new enrollments every year,” she said. “We can help them with 742 beds.”
But board member Tom Tidwell, the sole “No” vote on Tuesday, told SaportaReport that although “there is a shortage of student housing in the area … the private sector should not need government subsidies to provide the needed supply.”
“In considering projects that come before the board, I try to determine whether the project needs the abatement to go forward,” he said. “If the project will go forward without an abatement, then I would rather have the tax revenue go to schools and governments within Fulton County than to the developer and its investors.”
Continued Tidwell: “With respect to the student housing project on John Wesley Dobbs, I did not feel like the developer demonstrated a need for an abatement.”
GSU officials did not respond to inquiries regarding the claim that more housing was needed to hike enrollment, and this story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Maggie Lee contributed research to this article.
(Header image, via Development Authority of Fulton County: A rendering of the proposed project.)