The regularly scheduled Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) Board of Commissioners Feb. 26 meeting had the tone of affordable housing set early and often. There were three items on the agenda, all with an affordable housing bend.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Dr. Christopher R. Edwards was quick to apologize to the assembled media, presenters, and visiting public about the meeting beginning a few minutes later than the scheduled 1 p.m. start, but quickly moved through the call to order, quorum call and adoption of the agenda, making note that the board take time before any presentations “for any member of the public to be heard.”
There were no members of the public signed in to speak so the meeting’s presentations, there were three in total, began without interruption.
The final item of the meeting would become arguably the most interesting due to comments made by Dr. Edwards prior to the board approving it.
The item was for the AHA to seek authorization for business terms and financial commitments to obtain the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approvals for what was described as “scattered site properties” near Magnolia Park, located on and near Paschal Blvd. Quest Community Organization, Inc. and Westside Future Fund were presented as the developers.
There were maps and slides during the presentation. During the slide show, Edwards stopped the speaker to point out a particular home near the top of the projected image, “Hold on just a moment, I want to point out this house for people to remember,” he said.
Affordable housing is loaded term, not only in Atlanta but all over the country, and Edwards had a point to make on that term and what it means in Atlanta these days.
Along with the picture in the slide, he had another picture of a home put up on the screen. The home was on Boulevard Street, and he described how he decided to take a walk Saturday and noticed how unaffordable the “affordable housing” in what was once a predominantly Black neighborhood is today.
“This house right here, this is an area that was predominantly Black, middle class, lower-middle-class and even lower, but it was Black. I walk in there now and see this house and it’s listed for $750,000. What’s affordable about that guys?”
Edwards continued, “Off Boulevard, where most people didn’t even want to go before, and it’s now $750,000. I watched people come in and I saw not one that remotely looked like a person of color. I’m just telling you what I saw. That looks like the house we are about to provide but it’s going to be affordable and they are going to live in just as nice of a house in just as nice of a neighborhood.”
He also pointed out another located in the Peoplestown neighborhood and new property on Boulevard and Glen Iris where home prices are starting at $800,000.
“What’s affordable about that?” repeated Edwards. “The mission of Atlanta Housing [Authority] is to try and make or balance the feel some, so people can afford to live in their neighborhoods.”
The 16 properties on Glen Iris and Boulevard are starting at $900,000.
“So when people feel like they are being pushed out, they are,” said Edwards. “So let’s be real about what the [Atlanta] Housing Authority is meant to do and how we do it and why we push so hard for affordable housing.”
“With that said, I am happy to call this vote,” said Edwards.
The item was unanimously passed.
The first item of the afternoon brought forth was for the AHA to enter into an agreement with the United Way of Greater Atlanta to provide program coordination services for short term housing assistance for individuals that may be at risk of losing their housing. That item was immediately and unanimously approved.
“This contract is one that we already approved and it is one that I have always been very interested in,” said board member James Allen Jr. “Sometimes you may have a mother and her children set out into the street so that this contract can help and folks like them.”
The second item was a brief presentation by a representative of the Atlanta Housing Authority to the board seeking authorization to enter into a Homeflex Haven (HAVEN) commitment with three applicants looking to build more affordable housing through NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) funding.
The goal, upon approval, would be to have 40 permanent supportive housing units built by Home First Atlanta.
“The goal for the NOFA overall is 550 units, so we are well on our way to meeting that goal in the near future,” said Ricardo Anderson, Project-based Parental Assistance program manager. “This partnership also paves the way to provide overall affordable housing units around the city to residents earning a 60 percent area median income and below.”
Anderson added that this would be “a long-term agreement for up to 30 years.”
Finally, following an executive session, the commissioners unanimously approved a settlement with Integral Group, a local developer, and its partners Urban Realty Partners and H.J. Russell.
This decision comes five days (Feb. 21) after the board voted to not settle with the parties over the years-long battle.
There are nearly $2 million in legal fees and close to 80 acres of land in the balance prior to the settlement. The combined property has been appraised north of $60 million, according to reports. The settlement has AHA and the parties involved working together on a 50/50 partnership on the 80 acres for $21.9 million.
There are a number of added terms in regard to the land-use restrictions if Integral Group and its partners ever decide to sell any or all of the land. The settlement allows AHA to have rights to the first refusal in this case.
The settlement states that the development will have to be earmarked as “affordable,” sticking with the theme of the days meeting. Under the current settlement Integral Realty, Urban Realty Partners and H.J. Russell have three years to the date HUD (who needs to approve this settlement before anything becomes official) approves the deal to start building.