Detroit-based Rocket Community Fund announced a collaboration with the Partnership for Southern Equity and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership in a press conference on Tuesday morning held at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, as the nationally-acclaimed mortgage provider Rocket Mortgage extends the reach of its philanthropic arm to the southeastern United States.

The partnership, called Neighbor to Neighbor, aims to provide a wide range of resources to homebuyers and renters within Atlanta’s city limits using a door-to-door canvassing approach, sharing legal and financial advice to help prevent displacement among city residents. Participating organizations will also help residents afford closing costs, down payments for mortgages, rent and utility payments and other housing-related fees. 

Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens said he is thankful to Rocket Community Fund for selecting Atlanta as the first southern city in which to expand their initiative.

“The folks at Rocket [Community Fund] believe, as I do, that stable housing is foundational,” Dickens said during opening remarks. “It is connected to nearly everything we value for our families. There’s a direct link between safe, quality affordable housing; that link is direct[ly connected] to education, your health, and your wealth.”

The partnership, called Neighbor to Neighbor, aims to provide a wide range of resources to homebuyers and renters within Atlanta’s city limits using a door-to-door canvassing approach, sharing legal and financial advice to help prevent displacement among city residents.
Photo by Janelle Ward/The Atlanta Voice

Dickens also said Rocket Community Fund’s efforts compliment his political goals of making Atlanta a safe and affordable city for all residents.

“Owning a home remains a pathway to building family wealth for most people, and that’s especially for communities of color,” Dickens said. “I’m committed to making Atlanta a city of opportunity for all, and housing is a huge part of that.”

Laura Grannemann, executive director of Rocket Community Fund and founder of Neighbor to Neighbor, said she was excited to bring the program to Atlanta, having previously launched initiatives in Cleveland and Detroit. 

“Housing is foundational to absolutely every component of all of our lives,” Grannemann said. “And the Rocket Community Fund is thrilled to be able to be here in Atlanta to continue to expand that mission.”

Grannemann said the fund’s staff intends to use the experience gained in operating their two programs in the Midwest to help jumpstart philanthropic work in Atlanta. Neighbor to Neighbor intends to change the way leadership goes about tackling issues that plague the communities they serve.

“At the Rocket Community Fund, we have a fundamental belief that we have to fall in love with the problem, not the solution,” Grannemann said. 

Rocket Community Fund invested $750,000 into the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and the Partnership for Southern Equity in order to fund canvassing operations across Atlanta. According to a press release covering the partnership, this is the third major financial contribution the philanthropy has awarded in the city over the past three months.

The Atlanta BeltLine has worked with Rocket Community Fund previously to help legacy residents afford their homes, as costs of living for BeltLine-adjacent residents continue to rise with the construction of the multi-billion-dollar walking trail. The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership implemented its Legacy Resident Protection Program two years ago, which uses funding from philanthropic organizations to cover the property taxes of homeowners living within four distinct subareas of the BeltLine until the year 2030. 

In response to Neighbor to Neighbor, Rob Brawner, executive director of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, said the program is crucial to educating Atlanta residents about the resources they have at their disposal.

“[Neighbor to Neighbor] is another piece of the puzzle to lift up neighbors and help them live in a more equitable city,” Brawner said. “This collaboration will ensure that the residents most in need of help will know about the resources available to them, and who better to learn from than neighbors and somebody they know?”

Christina Cummings, the Partnership for Southern Equity’s vice president of operations, said the organization will work to build trust between canvassers and the Atlanta residents they’ll connect with in order to best provide them with Neighbor to Neighbor’s resources.

“Housing serves as our most basic cornerstone for the stability of our individuals and our families,” Cummings said. “It is our goal as partners in this historic investment from the Rocket Community Fund to not only help our residents continue to call Atlanta home, but to bolster an ecosystem of community development corporations that serve these residents on a day-to-day basis.”

Cummings also said housing insecurity isn’t a problem that should be tackled separately from other issues related to poverty and financial hardship.

“Unfortunately, for households, you don’t have a housing issue on Monday, a light bill problem on Tuesday, a health care challenge on Wednesday and employment challenges on Thursday,” Cummings said. “All of these issues are connected and we use a holistic, integrated approach to advance equity and do our work through these issues.”

Greg Clay, managing director of regional organizing at the Partnership for Southern Equity, said the effort will consist of 75-100 canvassers covering 20 neighborhoods around Atlanta. Both organizations plan to knock on approximately 20,000 doors in the city over the next four months.